Code Red: significant changes for landowners with telecom masts under the new Electronic Communications Code

28th February 2018

On 28 December 2017, the new Electronic Communications Code came into force under the Digital Economy Act 2017 as a wholesale replacement of the previous code.

Whilst telecommunication sites were previously an attractive way for landowners to utilise their land, the new code is likely to end the healthy rent levels once enjoyed and will leave landowners unable to negotiate terms more favourable than the new code allows.

Jonathan Rowley, commercial property lawyer with Ansons in Lichfield, explains the changes under the new legislation.

‘The previous Electronic Communications Code was long overdue for replacement, having been originally enacted in 1984. It’s no secret that technology has made significant advances and changes since those early days of digital communication.  The government has shared this view and considers the necessity of digital communications as akin to the basic needs of common utilities, like electricity,’ says Jonathan.

This mindset is clearly reflected in the slew of new rights granted by the new code, which brings telecommunications operators closer to the powers of statutory undertakers and utility providers.

The key changes

  • Upgrading, sharing and assigning: provided there is no more than a minimal adverse visual impact and no additional burden on the landowner, operators will have the right to upgrade equipment without the landowner’s consent. Operators will also have the right to share sites with other operators, or to assign their agreement, without the landowner’s consent, irrespective of the terms of any written agreement to the contrary. Agreements in which the landowner takes a cut of any rent payable between operators in site sharing arrangements are also no longer be permitted. These changes apply to new agreements post-28 December 2017.
  • Basis for valuations: the valuation basis for sites falling under the code has changed from an open market basis to a ‘no scheme’ basis. This is a basis which disregards the existence of the site/mast lease, and the operator’s rights. As such, the value of the land and the rental value achievable will be assessed based on its value to the landowner, rather than the operator. This is likely to result in rental values, and compensation payable for loss of land, to be lower than previously achievable, and more in line with the values expected when dealing with utility providers.
  • Landlord and Tenant Act 1954: new telecommunication site agreements will no longer be protected by the provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954. The new code has finally ended the confusing double protection such agreements previously enjoyed under the old code and the 1954 Act. This is a change that will be universally welcomed by landowners and their representatives.

Given that it is explicitly not an option for an agreement to “contract out” of the rights under the code, landowners need to be incredibly cautious.

Landowners considering future telecommunication sites, and existing landowners with telecommunication leases due for renewal, should review the changes thoroughly and seek professional advice where necessary.

For more information on our regulatory law services, please contact Jonathan Rowley at or on 01543 267992.


The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only.  They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.  Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.