Arborist warns of high cost of damaging utility cables

Expensive bill comes after arborist cuts cable.

Middlesex-based JK Tree Services director Keith Hogg has called for arborists to be aware of the swingeing price of cutting through utility cables after being hit with a £1,200 bill from BT. He said arborists must be aware of BT’s Dial Before You Dig helpline or it could cost them thousands. Working for the London Borough of Merton in Raynes Park, Hogg accidentally ground through a BT cable when stump-grinding. He had not called BT beforehand — something he now regrets. In a letter to HW, Hogg said: “If you don’t contact BT’s Dial Before You Dig line and you cut a cable under the ground while digging any sort of hole for tree planting or removing stumps, you are liable for the price of repairing cables.” He added: “I can’t believe what happened. It’s a joke. You can dig a hole and just by putting a spade in it costs you money. The council wants nothing to do with it once the contract is out.” Arboricultural Association director Nick Eden said the mishap was an “occupational hazard”. He added: “The fundamental principle is that utilities have a right to put their equipment in the highways. If anyone damages it there can be hefty bills.” He advised using a cable-locating tool, notifying utility companies of plans and asking for a map of where cables are. A BT representative said after last week’s small claims court case: “Ultimately, the court found for us. It is standard practice for us not to comment further.” * The Dial Before You Dig helpline number is 0800 917 3993, or see www.dialbeforeyoudig.com.

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