Angus father and son in ‘David and Goliath’ battle over plan to slash mobile mast site rental from £7,200 to £750

The Dundee Courier

12 Apr 2022

Bruce Ramsay and son Kevin say they are being forced out of an agreement which will see the rental for their Friockheim land reduced to a fraction of its worth.

The mast sits on the Old Station Yard in the village north of Arbroath.

But the Ramsays say they are among thousands of cases across the UK where mobile network operators have been able to massively reduce rents.

It follows a 2017 change to the Electronic Communications Code.

Charities, farmers and other site landlords say they are being forced into accepting rents which in some cases are 90% lower.

Bruce, 65, refuses to give in to communications giant Telefonica’s demand.

But he fears he will be powerless to stop the change.

“The rental agreement until 2019 was £7,200 a year,” he said.

“They want us to quit the agreement and accept the new rate of £750 a year.

“They have been blanking us for three years but are now telling us we have to break the agreement.

“I understand there are new laws and we need connectivity.

“But there’s not a law preventing a landlord making money off his own land.

“They want to rent a huge part of the site but my son has other business interests he wants to develop.

“The money they are now offering works out at much less than we would get for other commercial operations.

“They’re basically forcing us off our own land and wanting it for nothing.

“It’s David versus Goliath,” said the Angus businessman.

Digital connectivity push

The parliamentary legislation was intended to speed up the roll out of the UK’s new high speed digital network.

But charities, farmers and other site landlords say they are being forced into accepting rents which in some cases are 90% lower.

The Landlord and Tenant Act of 1954 applies to most of the UK’s 33,000 phone masts.

It means mobile phone operators are accorded sitting tenant status.

So the Ramsays can’t evict the phone firm or remove the mast to rent the land for alternative use.

They have joined campaign group Protect and Connect as part of his fight.
The group says it fully backs the need for a new 5G network.

But it is demanding fair payments for owners of the UK’s 33,000 existing mast sites – and the many more which will be required for digital connectivity.

Protect and Connect said the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill threatens to further erode land and property owners’ legal rights.
It is moving through parliament and could become legally binding within months.

Telefonica was contacted for comment on the Ramsay’s case but did not respond.