Telecommunications and the new Electronic Communications Code

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News article

Telecommunications and the new Electronic Communications Code

May 2015

telecoms

With the economy now growing albeit at a slow rate and the political uncertainties of the last few months now laid to rest, there is a renewed confidence in the development market to bring schemes forward to be developed out.  However, many landowners when planning such schemes are faced with the prospect of having to either seek to relocate or entirely remove a telecoms operator or operators from their land or buildings leading to if not planned properly significant delays in bringing forward schemes and substantial costs in seeking the full removal or relocation of telecoms equipment caused by security of tenure provisions both under the 1954 Landlord and Tenant Act and Electronic Communications Code. 

Early negotiations and discussions followed by the timely service of contractual and statutory notices at lease end or in exercising break/relocation options will avoid unforeseen costs and delays to schemes.  The key to ensuring timely resolutions of such matters is understanding who to approach within the telecoms operators to get early negotiations going, how to approach such negotiations and more importantly how to get the telecoms operator to help the developer, so both sides aims and objectives are met with minimal time delay and cost. 

When thinking about schemes it should, where possible be borne in mind that it is far easier to relocate a telecoms operator to an alternative area of a rooftop or a piece of land than to seek full removal and resultant vacant possession.  This will apply especially to town/city centre sites where the availability of alternative rooftop sites are few and far between and operators will fight hard to retain their existing sites rather than have to try and find alternative ones.  

Relocation rather than full removal takes an average up to 12 months, whilst full removal of equipment can take between 24 and 36 months and potentially in many cases lead to costs of between £150,000 and £200,000 per operator payable by the developer. For example in Bristol recently a developer sought the removal of four telecom operators from a rooftop.  Upon reviewing alternative options available including the relocation of the telecoms equipment to facilitate the development of five penthouses, the developer opted to go with the relocation scheme which saved him a considerable amount of time and money.  In bringing forward this scheme it ensured the retention of a very healthy income from the telecoms leases.  The icing on the cake was that the equipment was cleverly designed and relocated meaning it was very hard to actually see.

However, it is simply not always possible to relocate telecoms equipment and full removal is the only viable option.  Recently, in Chiswick, London a developer bringing forward a resi scheme sought the removal of Everything Everywhere, H3G, Vodafone and Telef├▓nica all from the same rooftop to facilitate a building being pulled down.  With the help of an agent and lawyer well versed in the removal of operators, and manoeuvring their way around the intricacies of the Electronic Communications Code and Landlord and Tenant Act through the service of notice under both sets of the legislation, vacant possession was achieved in 18 months with minimal cost to the developer. Without that understanding of the legislation and the workings of the operator the developer could quite easily have faced a bill approaching £500,000 to remove them. 

The Electronic Communications Code is currently being consulted on with a view by parliament that it will be reformed.  As an outcome of this reform it is likely that it will be made easier for landlords to seek the removal or relocation of telecoms equipment where currently workings of the Electronic Communications Code and Landlord and Tenant Act make the process, time consuming, cumbersome and expensive.  Key to the revised Code is the need to ensure the future connectivity of electronic communications in the interests of the economy, business and the community.  The New code contains vastly improved provisions covering redevelopment together with a quicker dispute resolution process. 

For further information contact Christopher Hicks on 01858 410202 email christopher.hicks@fishergerman.co.uk

Click here to read more about the services we can offer landowners regarding telecoms sites.

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