Your analysis of the worsening situation regarding the performance of utility companies has highlighted a problem that has had me cringing for years.
As a small-time, self-employed quantity surveyor working in the domestic housebuilding sector, I have aged markedly since my first attempts to arrange energy services for housing developments. I would like to know how big firms succeed in obtaining services for large-scale projects without incurring delays to their programmes.
The initial problem with utility companies is knowing who to speak to. The second is actually getting through to a human being. I have found Severn Trent Water the worst in this regard as it has a call centre with a complicated telephone menu that has to be overcome before you can discuss business with anyone.
British Gas seems to have improved. At one time gas supplies had to be arranged with Transco but nowadays British Gas does everything, from mains to meters. It even produces informative developers’ packs describing their requirements and practices.
Electricity suppliers are a headache – they all seem to operate under subsidiary companies with obscure names and even more obscure procedures. They take an age to produce quotations but manage to invoice you for the work before you have even accepted their offer. Woe betide you if you change your mind or experience problems on site – they will charge you to requote for the work.
I estimate that, for a housing development of 10 dwellings, it takes me nearly 12 months to organise the services, in many cases more by luck than judgment. Sometimes utility companies decide that legal agreements, easements or wayleaves, are required before any work can be undertaken. This results in more delay and costs for developers.
It is high time these companies were brought to account, made to publish precise details of their procedures and held to firm installation dates.
Stephen Peters, quantity surveyor