Landowners who host phone masts are being threatened with rent cuts of up to 90 percent by telecoms giants. Sports clubs, farmers, charities, churches, hospitals and community groups across the country face a huge drop in income because of a change in the law. And that could threaten the support and services they provide to people who rely on them.
Telecoms companies have used rights handed to them in the 2017 Electronic Communications Code to cut funds just as groups like this already face hardship.
Former Labour MP Anna Turley, the chair of the Protect and Connect campaign, said: “The proposed changes to the code are set to have a devastating effect on a whole range of small business owners, farmers and organisations essential to the UK’s communities.
“And the latest legislative plans will cost the economy £3.5billion by 2022 and cost small landowners an extra £50million per year on top of the £209million the existing changes to the Code have already cost them.
“What’s more, research shows they will slow down the UK’s 5G rollout, with up to nine million people missing out on superfast connections next year alone.
“We cannot let the multibillion-pound mobile phone operators profiteer off the back of our communities while failing to deliver on their empty 5G promises.”
The Government last week published its response to a consultation on changes to the Code.
Julia Lopez, minister of state for media, data and digital infrastructure, said: “Mobile operators are beginning to rollout 5G infrastructure. In order to achieve our goals, we must continue to focus on upgrading our digital infrastructure, which will be a key factor in driving our economic recovery.”
But campaigners fear the Product Security and Telecoms Infrastructure Bill – that is due before Christmas ‑ could compel sites to continue hosting masts despite the rent reductions.
Ms Turley added: “Thousands of people responded to highlight the problem of land valuation [in the consultation].
“The vast majority explained what it is like to host a mast and have your rent slashed and rights over your land or property handed over to telecoms giants.
“The Government has ridden roughshod over their views and given in to the demands of these companies, who are making huge profits at the expense of charities, councils and farmers.”
Belinda Fawcett, director of property at Cornerstone, which deals with rates for masts, said: “The Government introduced the new legislation because high rents were slowing down the industry from deploying the mobile infrastructure we desperately need across the country.
“Speeding up the rollout of mobile technologies is critical to the whole of society, particularly in our post-pandemic recovery.”