23 August 2013, Landowners who have telecoms masts on their land should not be afraid to push their case if they know lease conditions are being breached or there are other reasons their payments should be raised.
That’s the advice of rural property expert Phillip Nicholson, but he tempers his words with the warning that telecoms companies merging or sharing technical facilities could mean a drop in the overall number of masts in the future.
“Some landowners tend to regard masts as a cash cow that can be milked forever but it’s not always the case,” says Mr Nicholson, of national property consultancy Carter Jonas in Marlborough.
“It may be that the days of money growing on masts is beginning to fade but, on the other hand, site owners need to be aware of who is using equipment on their masts and if a second or third party has joined forces with the original leaseholder.
“In that case, the landowner could be entitled to higher rents. But operators sharing masts means that mast numbers may drop, so owners also need to ensure they don’t get stuck with redundant masts and potentially the subsequent cost of removing them.
“Careful research to unearth the facts is needed and the Ofcom website’s list of mast locations may help, but when landowners are certain of their case they must press for a fair and proper financial consideration.
“The ever burgeoning demand for mobile communications means that operators may be more inclined to share facilities but likewise it makes some mast locations indispensible to cope with the problems of local topography. Some operators are using the threat of withdrawal through break clauses or non renewal of leases to drive down costs in their favour.
“But sites that are retained, especially for multiple operator use, may have a premium value. Landowners know the topography of their locations, high use areas such as motorway junctions, and operators’ signal strengths so they have an instant clue as to weak spots in network coverage and how much their masts are needed to maintain the phone service for existing or new operators keen to expand to new areas.
“A few square metres of land in a non-productive copse or hedge line could turn out to have real and ongoing value. Proper advice could reap greater rewards than landowners previously anticipated.”