News & Updates

The Electronic Communications Code – A Threat to Landowners and Occupiers

Liam A Entwistle

Published byLiam A Entwistle

13th April 2021

The Electronic Communications Code – A Threat to Landowners and Occupiers

The Electonic Communications Code came into force in the UK on 28 December 2017 (“the Code”), replacing the previous code. The stated purpose of the Code is to further the public interest in the provision of high quality telecoms network within the UK. The Code provides the framework for the installation, regulation and removal of telecoms apparatus, and gives Telecoms Operators access to sweeping powers to force landowners to do what Operators consider is in their commercial interests.

Operators will, as a first step, seek to enter into agreements with occupiers and landowners to site telecoms apparatus – such as masts and bases, poles, cables and ancillary buildings – on their land. Operators will also seek to vary existing agreements to reflect the provisions of the Code/ Invariably, Operators will seek to impose restrictions on the mast site and the surrounding land, including access, and will also insist on almost unrestricted rights to upgrade and share the apparatus.

Operators will only propose a modest rent, based on principles which exclude any accounting of the mast being a necessary part of a larger scheme.

The Code provides powers to specialist UK Courts to impose these types of code agreements on the occupiers of land, and also to vary existing agreements, in order to align them with the new code.

Operators will seek the widest applications of the rights set out in the code – access, restrictions on development over the surrounding area, tree lopping, assignation of rights, upgrading and site sharing - all in the name of the public interest in high quality telecoms provision. They will ask the court to impose the lowest possible rent, based on an alternative use analysis. This essentially puts compulsory purchase powers in the hands of operators, and the defences to such an application are very narrowly stated.

Landowners approached by Operators will find considerable burdens placed upon their land, for minimal compensation.


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