Telecoms masts: big changes ahead for landowners
Legal changes to meet the demands of our exploding digital age will be good news for those who wish to see improvements in technology. Partner in the agriculture team James Lloyd, looks at how this could affect landowners.
Legal changes to meet the demands of our exploding digital age will be good news for those who wish to see improvements in technology – but they come with a word of warning for landowners.
In past years farmers have received valuable income streams from the siting of telecommunications masts on land. However they should now be mindful of the regulations included in the new Electronic Communications Code, (ECC) and the consequences they have.
Part of the Digital Economy Act 2017, the ECC does not affect previous arrangements. But it does introduce new measures that favour the telecommunications industry when new arrangements are made between the landowner and the company.
The exact start date for the Code is not yet known, however those involved in such deals are well advised to be aware of some of the key changes, including.
- Rental values: The rent payable for the mast site will now ignore the fact that the land is being let for telecommunications use. It will instead consider the market value of the land for general use, assuming too that the telecoms company could actually go to another location, which actually is often not the case. These changes are likely to have a detrimental impact on rental value.
- Mast/site sharing: New agreements will not be allowed to include a ban on site sharing in most circumstances. Nor can there be a requirement for further payments to landowners if more operators share a mast or more equipment is added, as has been the case in the past.
- No chance for renegotiation: Under the new ECC, the telecommunications company will be able to pass on its equipment and lease to other operators without the landowner being involved in the decision.
However, the new code does set out a clear and proper procedure for telecommunications companies to follow when arrangements are renewed, which will make issues easier to resolve.
With the above in mind, landowners would be well advised to look at the potential impact on existing income streams and consider ongoing business plans with their agricultural valuer.