Mobile masts firms branded 'Goliath bullies'

The Daily Express

26 Mar 2022

Mobile phone companies are in "David versus Goliath" stand-offs with community groups who have suffered big cuts in rents they receive for having phone masts on their land. Telecoms giants have slashed the rents they pay by as much as 98 per cent - decimating income earmarked to fund key community projects.

Siobhan Baillie, Tory MP for Stroud, Gloucs, said: "Connectivity depends to a large extent on thousands of community groups who host masts and receive rent in return. "These groups feel bullied and stuck in David versus Goliath-type battles. Several of my constituents have suffered - and while they could choose to fight firms like EE and Vodafone, few can afford to take on multi-billion giants in court."

Telecom companies have used rights handed to them in the 2017 Electronic Communications Code to cut funds just as the pandemic has left many groups suffering financially. Thousands of churches. charities, hospitals and sports clubs face reductions in mast rents - and a social club popular with pensioners has had rent slashed from £3,500 to around £550 a year, an 85 per cent cut. The Brookdale Club, a Stockport-based not-for-profit community group, has had an EE-operated mast on its building since 2000. The funds help with operations at the club, which offers bowling, bridge and theatre, among other activities.

Treasurer Niel Lingwood, 60, said the club has spent around £45,000 on solicitors' fees to try and oppose the cut, saying: "The club is not cheap to run. There are 700 members and [the mast money] was part of the overall revenue." New Forest West Tory MP Desmond Swayne said: "It's no wonder the roll-out has stalled and no one wants to give access to a mast - the income isn't worth it and the consequences are frankly deplorable.