Farmers Urged to Avoid Confusion on Telecoms Code

Farmers are being urged to avoid confusion over a new code of practice to ensure they receive fair market rents from telecoms firms.

The government’s Digital Economy Act became law on April 27 and will usher in a new Electronic Communications Code this summer aimed at improving mobile phone and broadband coverage in rural areas.

Julie Liddle

Julie Liddle

It was initially feared the current system of telecoms providers paying market rents to locate masts and other infrastructure would be replaced by a compulsory purchase system.

But following negotiations with the agricultural industry, farmers are still free to negotiate rents with telecoms operators under the code.

Julie Liddle, a director at Penrith-based rural chartered surveyors Robson & Liddle, said:
“The new code is designed to make life easier for telecoms providers and landowners alike.

“However, speculation during the consultation period has led to widespread misunderstanding over the code within the farming community. There will not be a compulsory purchase and compensation system for telecoms infrastructure. Rents remain open to individual agreement.”

Julie warned it was vital for farmers and landowners to seek advice from a professional valuer before entering negotiations with telecoms operators.

She added:
“Such has been the confusion over the new rules, it would not be a surprise if landowners without the proper advice accepted lower rents from telecoms providers. This would set precedents for other agreements and needs to be avoided.”

The key changes being introduced under the code include the imposition of timescales for renegotiation and termination of agreements, which is aimed at preventing lease renewal discussions going on for years.

The code also allows greater freedom for operators to upgrade their infrastructure and allow its use by other businesses, without having to pay landowners any percentage of extra revenues generated.

Julie added:
“This will hopefully lead to better outcomes for landowners and communications operators alike, as well as giving a much-needed boost to rural phone and broadband coverage. It’s important farmers and landowners don’t believe the myths they’ve heard about this new legislation. Instead they should get the right advice to protect their interests.”

Robson & Liddle

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