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Protect & Connect campaign on ITV Wales

13th April 2021

ITV WALES

Find out how local farmer Ed Bailey was initially offered £5,500 per year by a big telecoms company to host a mobile mast on his land, only to have that offer reduced to just £3.50 per year, leaving him “shocked, surprised and disappointed”. Watch the full piece here

UK 5G faces £7.4bn delay amid landlord disputes

4th April 2021

THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

The economy will take a hit of £7.4bn due to the slow rollout of 5G if a dispute between landlords and telecoms companies continues to hold back the technology.

Economists have warned reforms that aimed to reduce the rents telecoms operators pay to landlords for deploying new equipment have held up the spread of faster mobile phone signals across Britain.

Full Article

The unstoppable march of the masts

3rd April 2021

WESTCOUNTRY BYLINES

Most of us want it both ways.  We are keen, often desperate, to get improved mobile coverage. At the same time, we don’t want our precious landscapes scarred by ugly and alien structures. Reconciling the two will always be tricky. However, a little-known piece of legislation called the Electronic Communications Code (EC code) tips the balance too far away from local people and too strongly towards big business.

Full Article

Phone masts Code needs revisiting as disputes with landowners slow progress

22nd March 2021

THE SCOTSMAN

With the shift to working from home, the importance of digital communications and connectivity has never been more to the fore, and the speedy roll-out of full fibre broadband and 5G networks is viewed by government as critical to the economic recovery.

Full Article

Edinburgh pastor fears for church's future after 'bullyish' EE slashes mast rent by 96 per cent

19th March 2021

EDINBURGH EVENING NEWS

An Edinburgh pastor said felt “bullied” and “intimidated” by a telecoms company which found a loophole in the law and cut rent for a mast on his land by 96 per cent.

Full Article

Landowners have been hung out to dry over new telecoms rent rules

18th March 2021

THE TIMES

The new electronic communications code confers “rights” on operators who can exercise certain “powers”. The communications code has tilted unfairly towards operators: something must change

By Ed John, Partner at Howard Kennedy

Full Article

Campaign calls for fair deal on phone masts after 90% rent cuts

16th March 2021

DEVON LIVE

Protect & Connect is campaigning on behalf of people and companies whose property is used by telecoms companies

Full Article

Towering feud in the air over phone mast rents

14th March 2021

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH​

Rival campaigners are locked in a battle to balance the digital needs of rural areas with the interests of landowners

Two former Labour MPs have gone head-to-head in an increasingly bitter battle over Britain’s rural broadband ambitions.

Their row centres around changes that make it cheaper to expand rural coverage in the UK. Anna Turley, a former civil servant turned MP for Redcar, is defending landowners and landlords via the Protect and Connect campaign, while Patricia Hewitt chairs the Speed Up Britain campaign on behalf of telecoms companies.

Protect and Connect wants to reform a law which cut the amount landlords are paid in a bid to make it cheaper for phone firms to set masts up, with the aim of improving patchy signal in rural areas. Meanwhile, Speed Up Britain is campaigning for better mobile connectivity across the UK.

Turley, 30 years Hewitt’s junior, reveres Hewitt's achievements in her previous career. “I don’t know Patricia Hewitt personally,” Turley said last week. “It’s a shame our paths didn’t cross during our parliamentary careers – I have a huge amount of respect for her and for her achievements as part of the last Labour government.” Hewitt, meanwhile, opted not to discuss any similarities between the two.

Despite the common career paths, Hewitt and Turley have found themselves at loggerheads over a government consultation for the second time in five years. In 2017, the Electronic Communications Code was amended to reduce the value of rental agreements for phone masts to landlords. Subsequently, landlords were only allowed to charge at the market value of land, not the value of the land including equipment. The result was one-sided, with landowners having comprehensively lost out.

Dialling up the tension

In 2021, the battle still fundamentally boils down to cost, and the access of telecoms companies to mast sites. Even by Speed Up Britain’s numbers, which are disputed by the Protect and Connect campaign, rent cuts have been notably more steep than the Government’s own impact assessments. Speed Up Britain believes the average rent cut is around 63pc, one and a half times higher than the 40pc government expected to see.

Despite previously having described a Telegraph report revealing rent cuts of 90pc as “fictional”, senior figures within the Speed Up Britain campaign later acknowledged that by their own data, there had been at least two dozen agreements of that nature.

Hewitt says that the initial approach of telecoms companies “didn’t feel fair”, despite being within the code, and believes that deals are now being struck more cooperatively.

AP Wireless, which acts as an agent for a number of mast owners, accused telecoms companies of trying to bully landowners into a significantly reduced rate. Tom Evans of AP Wireless says: “Since the introduction of the code in 2017, we have received multiple legal notices from the main operators and tower companies. Our analysis of the rents set out in the notices from across the UK shows an average of a 94pc reduction on the passing rent.”

Given the encouragement for rental agreements to be renegotiated following the changes in 2017, even the Government itself became one of hundreds of landlords to see legal proceedings begin because of the newly implemented code. Twenty-two Whitehall, home to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, was pursued by Cornerstone, one of the most aggressive landlords in the market. Eventually, the Government agreed to a rent reduction of 46pc, and a six-figure sum.

Britain's data disconnect

Hewitt and Speed Up Britain say that the rent cuts are meant to ensure there is a wider access to high-speed internet across the country. However, almost five years after the code was introduced, there is little impact on the “not-spot” sites where there is no connectivity.

Hewitt says this is a sign the code needs further reform, and is not due to a lack of interest from telecoms companies.

Despite Hewitt’s warm words, major firms were not so eager for rural connectivity when discussing the rollout of 5G in 2019. Vodafone’s chief technology officer Scott Petty said rural connectivity “commercially doesn’t make a lot of sense... There aren’t many people there, they don’t pay for the services, and therefore it’s hard to build a case for that”.

On average, a mast rental agreement is only worth £6,000 a year. Despite the small sums, protracted legal battles have been fought over adjustments.

In many cases, the cost of engaging in a legal battle over notices far outstripped the value of the contracts themselves. One landlord was served a legal letter by hand, by a lawyer engaged by a landlord, over a rent which had an annual value of £210.

According to the landlord, the cost of the train ticket to serve the notice alone would have been two and a half months of rent under the agreement.

Sources close to the mast operators outline the reason for spending hand over fist to push down rents worth a maximum of a few thousand pounds: precedent. With digital infrastructure becoming an increased item of focus for governments, a legal battle over a small site in middle England becomes a matter of life and death.

It’s likely that costs of lobbying, legal fees and campaigns are set to eat a significant chunk of any potential savings for those pushing for changes.

One case has already made it to the Supreme Court, where one barrister estimated the costs for Cornerstone would exceed £500,000.

Privately, landowners expect to lose the upcoming battle over the consultation. Speed Up Britain and telecoms companies have shown remarkable skill for getting the Government on side to their agenda.

When one member of the Protect and Connect campaign first saw the new consultation, he said he could have believed Speed Up Britain had written it themselves.

Rishi Sunak, while a minister for housing, communities and local government in 2019, even wrote to councils encouraging them to ask for lower rents on mast sites.

In a letter written jointly with then digital minister Margot James, Sunak encouraged councils to work “hand in hand” with telecoms companies over rental payments, which lawyers claim meant rents to private landowners were forced down even further.

Despite a stated desire to improve connectivity and work cooperatively in the future, the hostilities between both sides seem set to continue. “If I was a landowner and I was offered a 90pc cut, what should I do?” posed one phone mast operator. “I guess I would threaten to remove the site.”

Full Article

St Albans charity speaks out after loophole slashes £10,000 off rent for 'eyesore' mast

12th March 2021

HERTS LIVE

Highfield Park Trust was left with no other option when fighting against a major telecoms company

Full Article

Campaign feature on BBC South Today

10th March 2021

BBC SOUTH TODAY​

BBC South Today’s feature on our campaign includes an interview with the Secretary of Aylesbury Rugby Club, Derek Spence. You can watch the full piece at this link beginning at 4 minutes. 

Full Article

Aylesbury Rugby Club accuse EE of 'bullying' after telecoms giant slashes mast rent by thousands

8th MARCH 2021

THE BUCKS HERALD

Aylesbury Rugby Club is campaigning for a change in the law after mobile phone giant EE arbitrarily told the club it was slashing the rent it pays for a phone mast on the club’s ground from £6,000 a year to just £750.

Full Article

Landowners 'bullied' by telecoms firms

8th MARCH 2021

FARMER'S GUARDIAN​

Farmers have seen their income from telecoms masts slashed by up to 90 per cent since 2017

Full Article

Campaign interview on BBC Three Counties Radio

2nd MARCH 2021

BBC Three Counties​

BBC Three Counties Radio spoke to the Secretary and Club Chairman of Aylesbury Rugby Club, Derek Spence and Paul Milham as well as our campaign chair Anna Turley. You can hear the full interviews at this link, tune in at 1.08 to hear Anna Turley and Derek Spence, and at 2.14 to hear Paul Milham.

Protect and Connect wants to help landowners with telecoms mast sites

28th FEBRUARY 2021

THE SCOTTISH FARMER​

A NEW campaign group has been launched to demand a fair deal for the people and companies whose property is used by telecoms companies – some of whom now face rent cuts of up to 90%.

Full Article

Landowners accuse 'bullying' telecoms firms of using loophole to slash rent paid for phone masts - with one saying he was offered £250 rent by EE instead of the usual £6,000 for space at a rugby club

28th FEBRUARY 2021

MAIL ON SUNDAY​

Mobile phone giants have been accused of leaving small landowners thousands of pounds out of pocket by using a loophole to dramatically reduce their rents for phone masts.

Full Article

Farmers demand phone masts fair deal after 90% rent cuts

25th FEBRUARY 2021

FARMERS WEEKLY​

Farmers are demanding a review of a code of practice that is forcing down the rents they are paid for telecoms masts on their land.

Since 2017, the Electronic Communications Code has given telecoms companies and infrastructure providers the framework to force rent reductions on masts of up to 90%, says the Protect & Connect lobby group.

Full Article

Landowners fight back over phone masts after 90pc rent cuts

18th February 2021

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

Landowners are launching a campaign against phone firms after being forced to accept rent cuts of 90pc or more for mobile masts on their properties.

The Protect & Connect lobby group is seeking to reform a 2017 law which slashed the amount landlords are paid in a bid to make it cheaper for phone firms to set masts up, with the aim of improving patchy signal in rural areas.

At least 25,000 small site owners have been stung by the cuts including cricket clubs, churches and farmers, campaigners said.

Ministers are now consulting on changes to the law, with internet access campaigners calling for it be tightened up so that rents fall again and mobile internet reach is further expanded. Protect & Connect is seeking changes which will restore some of landlords' lost profits.

One landowner claimed their rent was slashed from £5,000 a year to £10. Others said their rents were cut from more than £1,000 to £37. Many landlords' rents fell by 90pc or more, the group said.

Campaign chair Anna Turley said: “Telecoms companies are hugely profitable and have recently been handed generous state subsidies to roll out high speed networks, particularly in rural areas.

“The individuals and organisations that have been forced to accept rental reductions of up to 90 per cent include farming families, amateur sports clubs, small business and parish councils.

"We will campaign tirelessly on their behalf to expose the aggressive tactics employed by telecoms operators and their agents and ensure property owners get a fair deal.”

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "We are aware of concerns about how the code is working and this is precisely why we have launched a consultation to look at whether legislative changes are needed. We encourage those affected to contribute and make their voices heard."

Speed Up Britain, which represents telecoms companies, was approached for comment.

 

Landowners are launching a campaign against phone firms after being forced to accept rent cuts of 90pc or more for mobile masts on their properties.

The Protect & Connect lobby group is seeking to reform a 2017 law which slashed the amount landlords are paid in a bid to make it cheaper for phone firms to set masts up, with the aim of improving patchy signal in rural areas.

At least 25,000 small site owners have been stung by the cuts including cricket clubs, churches and farmers, campaigners said.

Ministers are now consulting on changes to the law, with internet access campaigners calling for it be tightened up so that rents fall again and mobile internet reach is further expanded. Protect & Connect is seeking changes which will restore some of landlords' lost profits.

One landowner claimed their rent was slashed from £5,000 a year to £10. Others said their rents were cut from more than £1,000 to £37. Many landlords' rents fell by 90pc or more, the group said.

Campaign chair Anna Turley said: “Telecoms companies are hugely profitable and have recently been handed generous state subsidies to roll out high speed networks, particularly in rural areas.

“The individuals and organisations that have been forced to accept rental reductions of up to 90 per cent include farming families, amateur sports clubs, small business and parish councils.

"We will campaign tirelessly on their behalf to expose the aggressive tactics employed by telecoms operators and their agents and ensure property owners get a fair deal.”

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "We are aware of concerns about how the code is working and this is precisely why we have launched a consultation to look at whether legislative changes are needed. We encourage those affected to contribute and make their voices heard."

Speed Up Britain, which represents telecoms companies, was approached for comment.

Full Article

PRESS RELEASE: New campaign calls for fair deal for people and businesses whose rights are being eroded by telecoms companies

Protect & Connect launches campaign against rent cuts of up to 90 per cent by telecoms companies
 

  • Campaign to be chaired by former MP Anna Turley

  • Calls on UK government to revisit broken legislation and scrap

  • new proposals to grant telecoms companies even greater powers

  • Protect & Connect wants to see both sides working together to speed up 5G rollout and keep issues out of the courts

Download Full Press Release

Farming Matters - BBC SOUNDS

19 January 2021

BBC SOUNDS
 

Voices, views, stories, news and engaging chat from Northern Ireland’s rural community.
 

Full Article

Telecoms giants ‘fleecing’ landowners to build phone masts

23rd December 2019

DAILY BUSINESS GROUP​

Landowners in Scotland claim they are being fleeced by telecoms operators using a scheme to boost network coverage as an excuse for slashing rents they pay for putting mobile phone masts on their land.

Full Article

Telecoms mast law changes may cause problems for landowners

6th November 2020

NEWS & STAR

 

Many landowners in Cumbria have telephone masts located on their property with the leases generally historically held under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954. This however has changed following the introduction of The Electronic Communications Code, as part of the Digital Economy Act 2017 which came into force on December 28 2017 and so whilst this is not new news, it continues to cause problems.

Full Article

How to manage radiation exclusion zones for phone masts

28th January 2020

FARMERS WEEKLY​

Farmers with telecoms masts on their land must fully understand radiation exclusion zones to safeguard people’s health and protect against potential liability claims.

Full Article

EE to pay Dunley pensioner £300 - not £4,500 - for mast in garden

18th September 2019

THE SHUTTLE

A pensioner has reluctantly signed a deal with EE to have a permanent 20-metre-high phone mast in his back garden.

Full Article

Mast warning issued to British farmers ahead of 5G network rollout

2nd September 2019

FARMERS GUARDIAN​

 

Rollout of 5G could accelerate telecoms operators looking to use land without paying farmers and landowners the prices they may have received in the past.

Full Article

How to make sure your telecom mast agreement is fair

20th July 2019

FARMERS WEEKLY​

The UK Government’s push to increase mobile phone coverage across Wales has hidden, and potentially expensive,  side effects for farmers, according Farmers’ Union of Wales

Full Article

Telecom giants push for 5G - but cuts to compensation for farmers whose land is lost

3rd April 2019

FUW

The UK Government’s push to increase mobile phone coverage across Wales has hidden, and potentially expensive,  side effects for farmers. The revised Electronic Communication Code means that Telecom operators have been able to cut rents paid to those with masts on their land.

Full Article

Telecom giants push for 5G but at what cost to farmers?

2nd April 2019

WALES 24/7​

The UK Government’s push to increase mobile phone coverage across Wales has hidden, and potentially expensive,  side effects for farmers, according Farmers’ Union of Wales

Full Article

Digital Minister: Farmers being ripped off by telecoms providers an ‘outrage’

4th October 2018

FARMERS GUARDIAN

The Digital Minister has said it is ‘an outrage’ that telecoms providers are ripping off farmers by slashing rents for phone mast sites.

Full Article

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