To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, pursuant to the Answer of 21 May 2021 to Question 709 on Telecommunications: Infrastructure, for what reason legislative proposals were required in respect of a matter for private negotiation between operators and site providers; and if he will undertake an assessment on whether the fall in rents reflects the impact assessment.
26 May 2021
The 2017 reforms to the Code reflected this government’s view that the prices being paid for rights to install communications apparatus were too high and with digital communications becoming an increasingly critical part of daily life, needed to be addressed.
In the first instance, rental payments remain a matter for negotiation between the operator and landowner. The valuation framework contained in the Code is one applied by the courts where the parties are unable to reach a mutually acceptable agreement and the courts are asked to impose Code rights. In these circumstances the court will decide not only whether the requested rights should be imposed, but also what the terms of any subsequent agreement should be.
In those circumstances, the legislation provides that, for valuation purposes, the specific use of the land for telecommunications networks is disregarded. However, the landowner remains otherwise entitled to reasonable rental payments, as well as compensation for any loss or damage. We believe that framework strikes the right balance between the public need for digital communications and ensuring individual landowners are not left out of pocket for allowing their land to be used.
We have no plans to undertake an assessment of reductions in rents following the 2017 reforms in the near future. We were clear at the time the 2017 legislation was introduced that the changes would take time to achieve their intended effect, not only because the market would require time to adapt, but also because case law would need to be developed and the new provisions would not be immediately applied to existing agreements.
Our recent consultation makes it clear that the government is not revisiting the valuation regime introduced in 2017. However, our consultation does ask about whether changes are needed to support more collaborative negotiations, including the possible introduction of Alternative Dispute Resolution, which could help disagreements about rents to be dealt with more quickly and cheaply and ensure the aims of the 2017 reforms are realised.