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Utilities: Guidance lags behind technology when progress needs both!

Utilities: Guidance lags behind technology when progress needs both!


In the second of my trilogy of blogs on utility information, guidance and data, I’m taking a look at whether guidance and practice is keeping up how data is collected and provided through improvements in technology and delivery of discovery information. 

Over recent months, I’ve taken time to catch up with some of the Utility Industry stakeholder meetings and have been quite surprised to find that we have not moved on at all in the past 4 to 5 years!

It seems that the same old questions are being asked and the same problematic statements being declared, like “the plans didn’t show plant that existed on site!” & “why is the guidance so vague on what is required” & “why are there so many options?”

Both the CDM Regs(1) and the HSG47(2) have improved matters in recent years, but the roles and responsibilities in the CDM are still being argued over, and the ambiguities in HSG47 are still being exploited.

Statements like this are still occurring too often:

“We didn’t think it was worth doing a PAS 128(3) QL B survey because it was too expensive and the lead in time was too long!” 

“We didn’t understand the cost and time implications of plant being in conflict with our scheme.” 

“It was a surprise to use the amount of disruption we caused trying to fix the problem and that hasn’t helped us locally!”

“Despite improving our practices and increasing our budgets, our strike regularity still stays the same!”.

Recently I was asked by one of these stakeholder engagement groups “What do we need to do?” – The answer was simple for me, having been involved in these conversations for a number of decades now… “Proper utility discovery with defined requirements needs to find a way on to the statute book!” Technology and safe-working practice exist to ensure that plans can be collected easily. 

Electromagnetic Location Surveys (EML) & Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) technologies can now enable large areas of survey very quickly and accurately. Yes, they cost money and take time but it seems to me that whilst many developers and their supply chains have improved what they are doing on the back of the guidance, we are not now going to see a major shift in the market until people are forced to do it.

In addition, what people who have invested in this kind of technology need is for people to use them. That will drive further progress too.

Traffic disruption and Health & Safety will not be improved, in my view, until the guidance issued to the industry finds its way on to the statute book and proper utility discovery for anybody who breaks the ground becomes mandatory!

In the final of my three blogs, I will look to the future of utility information and the prospects for AI automation in what remains a complex realm for all stakeholders. 

For more information on the Apogee Utility Search Report and more resources to understand how utilities could affect site development for your client, go to  , call us on 01273 257 755 or email us at

Credits, References and Further Reading.

Jeremy Haigh is Managing Director of Apogee Property & Utility Consultants having spent 25 years in the utility industry. A graduate of Westminster University with a degree in Estate Management, he started his career in Wireless Network Roll out acquisition, moved into fibre network utility consents, claims and information management with a particular interest in the evolving Geospatial systems management of information. He took part in the BSi PAS 128 steering group with a particular QL – D specialism. He is an expert in utility discovery and consulting for developers and their development supply chain.

  1. CDM – The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015

  1. HSG47 –  Whole document.

  1. PAS 128 – Specification for underground utility detection, verification and location.


May 12, 2024

Jeremy Haigh