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Scottish Landowners Complain of Being “Fleeced” by UK Telecoms Firms

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 2,193

The Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) group has complained that UK broadband and mobile network operators have “fleeced” rural landowners by allegedly abusing the revised Electronic Communications Code (ECC), primarily by only paying pitifully small sums in order to access and use private land.

In the past it was landowners who took much of the blame for disrupting the roll-out of new telecoms networks, not least by creating disputes over complex wayleave agreements, which could sometimes make it far too difficult or expensive for operators to expand their coverage (e.g. charging thousands of pounds in annual rental to install new kit or masts etc.).

The reformed Electronic Communications Code (ECC), which was introduced at the end of 2017 (here), was supposed to change all that by making it easier and cheaper for telecoms operators to access public or private land in order to build new networks. All of this is vital in order to help the Government reach their goals for better 4G / 5G mobile coverage and “full fibre” (FTTP) availability (here).

However we’ve already seen plenty of examples from across England and Wales of situations where some network operators have gone too far, often by offering tiny payments of anything from around £7 to cover the installation of new kit on land or buildings (example). As a result of this the tribunal system that was setup to cope with such disputes soon became clogged with a backlog of cases.

Some progress has been made since then but a fair few issues remain and, perhaps unsurprisingly, this problem has now also cropped up in Scotland.

Stephen Young, SLE Head of Policy, said (Daily Business):

“For the past two years landowners have been fleeced by telecoms giants. They are taking a very aggressive approach to lease renewals, often using underhand tactics to scare landowners into signing agreements they do not understand the full consequences of.

The telecoms operators are shying away from encouraging the landowner to take professional advice, which they are entitled to and should be paid for by the telecoms company.

Many landowners don’t realise they are entitled to this and the telecoms companies are failing to offer this. The Code could be really effective if telecoms operators changed their behaviour.”

The SLE claims that in some cases landowners have been offered a rental of just £1 (down from £10,000 before). Part of the problem stems from the fact that the rental charge is based on the agricultural value of the land, which becomes tiny when the annual leasehold figure is calculated. The Lands Tribunal has already said that they do not feel this is an appropriate valuation method.

In response both the SLE and NFU Scotland have establishing a special telecoms forum in the hope of finding a solution by brining operators and landowners together. Clearly some fairness is needed from both sides.

Leave a Comment
9 Responses
  1. Avatar Leex

    Wow 10k a year to £10 I would kick them off my land for that

    £500-1000 a month is what I have seen typically to have on top of your roof (depends if there using your power or if they have there own 1-3phase supply but basically it ends up the same price you receive as the extra money is paying for the power used)

    For 5g it’s bit murky as they need a lot of them and £500 a month for a short range mast is not really feasible far lower amount for 5g is better but not for master cell sites)

    • Avatar 5G_Infinity

      Current and for next 3 years rollout of 5G will be macro cell lead, small cells remain a small part of the footprint and will do for awhile, most MNOs in UK/EU focused on 3.5GHz or perhaps 2.6GHz as a macro add-on, creating a thin layer of 5G. This is needed in many countries with coverage obligations tied to the spectrum licenses.

  2. Avatar Michael V

    If an operator is not using power supply from the land owner, they shouldn’t have to pay stupid high fees to install/ maintain cells. We all want better coverage & this dispute has gone on for years.
    Gas & energy suppliers don’t have these problems, as they pay a few hundred a year to a landowner. We look at all these different services as essential. Just Let companies install their infrastructure.

    • Avatar ianh

      Im sorry, but how would you feel if they put up a massive mast on your lawn and offered you £10 per year and you couldnt do jack about it?

      It’s their land. They deserve to be compensated. I wouldn’t want them on my land.

    • Avatar dave

      Getting paid for a perfect mobile signal? Doesn’t sound too bad 😉

    • Avatar Gary

      Why should they ‘Just Let companies install their infrastructure’ Because It’s not their land.

      While in many cases, sure, a small section of one bit of field amounts to practically zero ‘cost’ to a land owner its their land. How about we use your garden as a car park because ‘everyone’ wants better parking near where you live.

  3. Avatar NGA for all

    Removing ransom payments is needed. Some fraction of the marginal revenue available ought to be calculable.
    This leaves Ofcom licence fees which are in need of surgery if 5G is to reach its potential.

  4. Avatar AnotherTim

    There needs to be a sensible middle ground that covers the landowner’s costs, but doesn’t make the cell uneconomic. From experience I’m aware that while allowing access to my land doesn’t cost me anything directly, it actually adds £300 per year to my household insurance. I’d be very reluctant to accept only £10 a year!

    • Avatar 5G_Infinity

      That’s why going to court or a tribunal is the route many are taking, then both compensation and consideration are considered by the judge(s) and things like insurance, access tracks, etc get considered.

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