January 2015 has been an exciting time for anyone interested in the Electronic Communications Code (ECC). Out of the blue the government first announced they were replacing the famously unpopular piece of legislation and then, just as suddenly, announced that actually they were not.
The ECC is of interest to landowners with a telecoms mast on site and can make it difficult to remove a mast to allow for development. It was hoped that the proposed new code would clear up some of the ambiguities in the existing ECC but the speed at which the government was attempting to rush through the amendments - as part of the Infrastructure Bill already in its final stages of the passage through Parliament – caused concern to many.
The initial reaction to the proposed changes in the new code was broadly positive. One benefit for landowners would have been the exclusion of the Landlord and Tenant Act security of tenure provisions meaning a landowner, previously faced with two procedures for removal, would only need to comply with the ECC.
On the flipside, telecoms operators would have had more freedom to deal with the site without the landowner’s approval, including for assignment, upgrades and site sharing. Termination would have required at least 18 months’ notice and compliance with grounds set out in the new code.
The main concern was the speed at which the new code was being rushed through with no period for proper consultation within the industry. We hope that the withdrawal of the new code is not a sudden volte-face by the government, but instead a pause to allow for a full consultation period and time to develop a new code that properly addresses the concerns of both land owners and telecoms operators.