Electronic Communications Code Vs Landowners
The new Digital Economy Bill will have one notable inclusion – the Electronic Communications Code (‘the code’) expected to come into force mid-2017.
The code is attempting to find a balance between providing adequate coverage of mobile services and providing fair compensation and treatment for those landowners affected by the masts. It will not only affect new installations but also agreements involving existing masts by way of a set of transitional provisions.
There have been some suggestions that coverage black spots result from landowners charging far more for land than they would have done if the land were used for other purposes. Mast operators have therefore been put off building and have been unable to provide the desired coverage.
Operators now want stronger compulsory purchase powers which are akin to those that electricity and water companies have. Landowners who resist the installation of masts in the future could find that they are forced to allow the use of their land for telecommunications. Landowners’ abilities to negotiate favourable deals may, as a result, be dramatically reduced.
Compensation for land in question is also to be determined by using a ‘no scheme’ rule which reflects the true value of the land. A small 10m x 10m area worth currently £8,000 a year could see a drop to £300 a year under the new proposals.
Existing agreements are likely to be affected especially where contracts are coming up for renewal.
Now is the time to start negotiations in order to try and achieve a favourable deal to avoid losing out.
Katy Moss is a solicitor in the Property department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Suffolk.