Gone are the days where "statutory undertakers" providing  utilities meant the gas, water and electricity boards.  What we commonly  understood as "utilities" is changing fast as the market for them broadens. 

Alongside traditional utility providers we now have multiple telecommunications, data, micro energy, storage, EV and other applications. Supplies are being provided by new and alternative market entrants (like Amazon and Apple) as well as private suppliers. 

The law is failing to keep pace with all this technological innovation. A typical legal precedent or development agreement is likely to refer to "statutory undertakers" carrying out "statutory obligations". The drafting is likely to be much the same as it would have been 20 years ago. Yet despite these terms being fairly commonplace there is no conclusive legal definition of what they mean. Instead, lawyers have relied upon custom and general understanding. But as these lines of understanding have become more blurred practitioners are seeing more challenges against applying the terms to a wider range of utilities. Crucially, these challenges can be made against the exercise of rights or reservations that are essential to getting property developments completed.   

Going forward, developers should ensure that they and their advisors pin down what is intended to be covered by the grant or reservation of utility rights or risk the consequences of challenges.