Spotlight on: Connections Legal Management

CLM Director Laura Wilson.

We pride ourselves on making the connections process seamless. But we can’t do this without the support of expert partners. Together with Connections Legal Management (CLM), we can speed up the delivery process by cutting down the time it takes to complete the land rights consent process for new utility connections.

CLM Director Laura Wilson explains how CLM’s new approach to land consents for EV charging allows for the legal processes to be completed much more quickly.

Firstly, can you tell us a bit more about CLM?

Connections Legal Management (CLM) works within the electricity industry to support connection providers with any land consent requirements required by distribution network operators (DNOs) and independent distribution network operators (IDNOs). We coordinate land consents such as easements, wayleaves, licences and leases for new infrastructure.

We’re also passionate about supporting charge point operators (CPOs), fleet operators and local authorities across the country to achieve electricity connections for new EV chargers.

How was CLM formed?

On leaving school and studying law at college, I worked full time whilst ‘training on the job’ to become an Easement Officer. I then completed my Estate Management degree at The College of Estate Management and was promoted to Senior Easement Officer.

My career took me to Savills, where I became their Capital Programme Assistant. Recognising a gap in the legal market, I carved a role for myself as New Connections Manager, responsible for managing the new connections business within the utility team and working with electricity and gas connection providers to procure the legal rights.

I harnessed my extensive skills in negotiation and background in feasibility studies, land acquisition and lease administration to start CLM in 2014.

I am fortunate to work with my husband, Hamish, who is also a CLM director. We have two wonderful daughters, who have also taught me so much already; largely that there is no better negotiator than a child at bedtime!

What type of customers does CLM support?

CLM acts on behalf of statutory undertakers, connection providers and private landowners.

As CLM is not aligned to any one network, we are able to give an industry overview, taking the best practice from all the networks to provide a bespoke, tailored solution for the end developer.

We are happy to speak to solicitors and surveyors, and because we are independent, they are all happy to speak to us as well.

Having our independence allows us to sit on energy boards. For instance, I am a member of the SSE stakeholders panel and I also contributed to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in relation to the implications of land rights policy for net zero related projects.

In turn, we are then able to provide specialist advice and support to our clients relating to these matters.

Why did you choose to partner with mua?

CLM takes pride in working with such ground-breaking clients who, like us, strive to improve the utility connections process. The mua team is proactive, innovative, customer-focused and responsive – qualities that we share here at CLM.

With our expertise in land rights consents, we can assist mua in speeding up the legal process to deliver EV charging infrastructure projects more quickly and more efficiently. 

We’re proud to work with pioneering partners like mua who share our goal of wanting to push boundaries and challenge the norm to improve the utility connections process for our clients. 

What do you like most about working with mua?

At CLM, we really value the relations we have built with the brilliant team at mua. The whole team are experts in their specialist areas, and we appreciate the quick responses and professional contributions provided.

Our seamless teamwork enables maximum efficiencies, allowing us to deliver projects in the timely manner our clients have come to expect.

Tell us more about the new licensing arrangements you’ve developed for IDNOs

Last year, CLM worked with several IDNOs – including mua – to create a new approach to land consents for EV charging which allows for a much quicker delivery of legal completion, thus allowing more chargers to be connected quicker.

Under existing land rights policy, DNOs and IDNOs would usually acquire a long lease for a new substation site; typically 99 years. The security of a lease is something I support for standard developments, as it prevents the networks from being left with stranded assets in the future with no legal means of access for general maintenance.

But with EV charging, the new substations are typically being installed to supply EV chargers only, with the CPO having a short lease of the land (typically between 10-20 years). In addition, the substations are being designed and installed at the capacity of the chargers, so it’s highly unlikely the substations will be used for future connections. The traditional long lease is somewhat of a pain point for CPOs and other operators in getting EV charge points up and running.

In 2020, I worked with the DNOs to develop a ‘simpler’ process of acquiring substation rights under a licence, rather than a lease, when a new substation was being installed purely to supply EV chargers.

Since then, we have seen the industry move towards IDNO adoption. Our new licencing arrangements enable IDNOs to acquire also these sites using a licence instead of a lease, granted to the IDNO by the CPO. That licence does not (subject to the CPOs’ own lease requirements) require complex negotiations with superior landlords.

The process is fast, effective and inexpensive, but it does require the DNO to be on board with consenting to their incoming HV cable using a wayleave.

How have we at mua helped you develop the licensing arrangements?

The mua team gave me the opportunity to present such an effective alternative to the traditional approach to land consents for EV charge point connections and has supported its use through its CPO rollout.

Furthermore, mua has listened and taken on board feedback to now allow CPOs to make an additional connection from the EV substation. This now enables CPOs to have a forecourt/shop/additional service connected under the licencing arrangement.

Why do you think CLM is in such demand to support EV charge point connections?

A key reason CLM is being brought into these major EV sites is because the sites are complex in structure and our communication is outstanding.

In terms of land ownership, projects have several parties: the landowner, the EV developer, the independent connection provider, the network and solicitors, if not more.

CLM recognises the complexity, and we make sure that everybody is clear on the consent requirements for the delivery time scales of the EV company in order to meet the government's ambitious net zero targets.

Having CLM involved does add another party, but we are solely focused on making sure communication is right. We join conference calls on a weekly basis, we run weekly reports, hold workshops – we do anything that the client wants us to do to ensure their communication isn't a challenge on their project.

What’s next for CLM and your relationship with mua?

CLM is looking forward to continuing growing our partnership across the mua business, continually striving to make efficiencies in the land rights process to ensure this is as streamlined as possible for mua customers.

Where can people find more information about CLM?

To learn more about our CLM team and services, please visit our website or follow us on Instagram or Twitter.