Fans of HBO’s comedy series Curb Your Enthusiasm may recall the episode in which Larry David gets into difficulties with his neighbour over a wire which overseils the garden of his home in Los Angeles. In one of his first cases as the new President of the Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal Mr Justice Lindblom has recently had to grapple with similar circumstances and the intricacies of compensation payable under the provisions of the Electricty Act 1989 (“the 1989 Act”) upon the grant of a compulsory wayleave.

In Stynes v Western Power Distribution East Plc [2013] UKUT 0214 (LC), the Claimants, Mr & Mrs Stynes, over whose back garden an electrical cable had been installed, sought compensation on a more generous basis than had previously been granted by electricity companies as compensating authorities, in such circumstances.

The main issue in their reference to the Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal was whether, under paragraph 7 of Schedule 4 of the 1989 Act Mrs & Mrs Stynes as claimants were entitled to compensation for injurious affection not only for the effect of the part of the line that passed over their garden but also, by operation of section 44 of the Land Compensation Act 1973 or else in accordance with the principle of equivalence, for the effects of the compensating authority’s apparatus, including an electricity pylon on adjacent land. If so, it was agreed, the measure of compensation would increase by a factor of almost four in this particular case and, by application of such a principle, if established, to a similar degree in respect of overseiled land up and down the country.

In finding against the claimants the Lands Chamber held that the grant of a compulsory wayleave is not tantamount to a compulsory acquisition of land and that therefore the measure of compensation attributable to each differs and is governed by different parts of the 1989 Act (i.e. Schedules 3 and 4 of the 1989 Act, respectively). Consequently those, such as Mr & Mrs Stynes, in respect of whose land there has been a grant of a compulsory wayleave rather than compulsory acquisition, are entitled to be compensated for the diminution in value of their property brought about by the cable running across their land but without regard to any other infrastructure such as a pylon, no matter how close to their property it might be situated.

The Lands Chamber also rejected the claimant’s alternative argument based on the principle of equivalence, i.e. that an owner should be paid neither less not more than his loss. The principle did not assist the Claimants in this case, the Lands Chamber held, because compensation relating to any off-site apparatus did not amount to “compensation in respect of the grant” and therefore did not fall within the relevant statutory language.