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Warning to landowners over telecommunications regulations

Changes to regulations for telecommunications providers could have an impact on rural landowners, an expert has warned.

Many rural landowners lease part of their property for the installation of telecoms masts, which can provide an additional income.

The Digital Economy Act 2017 came into force late last year, which brought with it the New Electronic Communications Code.

The code outlined changes to the way agreements can be made between landowners and telecoms companies. For example, upgrades involving supplemental equipment are now permitted without payments, and rent has been replaced with compensation for loss of land.

In addition, transfer of the lease can no longer be restricted, meaning the person you initially sign up may change numerous times during the terms of the lease.

The changes have resulted in both the sites and the agreements themselves becoming less appealing to landowners.

Andrew Holden, head of Rural at regional law firm Napthens, said: “The code aims to make it easier for service providers to ensure total network coverage, but while these changes are positive for providers, they have considerable implications for landowners.

“We have seen several telecoms mast renewals stall during the past eight months, with negotiations having to be re-commenced as a result. Some land agents have reported compensation being offered at as little as £50 per site for the full duration of an agreement.

“But masts aren’t the only things being caught by the code, it also applies to all electronic communication equipment, for example BT wayleaves and internal telecoms wiring in flats and commercial units.

“If you are approached regarding your telecoms mast or to agree a new lease or wayleave, then seek advice from your solicitor and land agent urgently. It may still be possible to renegotiate certain terms and make the agreements more landowner-friendly.”

Andrew Holden, Rural Solicitor for Cumbria and Lancashire