A fundamental change in the way that network operators seek out land for mobile phone masts and other apparatus has led the Farmers’ Union of Wales to express further concern that the push for 5G coverage will have hidden costs for the agricultural sector.
The FUW previously raised concerns over the revised ‘Electronic Communications Code’ in 2017 which has allowed telecom operators to cut the rents paid to farmers who have masts on their land. The rollout of 5G means that this problem is likely to accelerate.
Under the code, payments are reduced from ‘high-tech’ telecom rates to ordinary agricultural rent. Indeed, the Code states that the market value of land used for telecoms equipment should not relate to the use of the equipment and reduces the payment to that in the region of ordinary agricultural rent; with some contribution for fees if applicable. The FUW is aware that this can reduce rent from thousands of pounds per year to tens of pounds over an entire 10 year period. This is a significant loss in income for such farmers.
If a farmer refuses to accept the reduced rent, the associated company can seek to impose rights through the Upper Tribunal under the new Code.
The introduction of the Code has severely impacted the relationship between landowners and telecommunications companies and this will undoubtedly affect the rollout of 5G networks in the near future. The FUW is reminding those who receive income from telecom masts, or are approached for the inclusion of new 5G masts, to be aware of these possible reductions in rent.