Government drops pre-election review of the Electronic Communications Code

The long awaited review of the Electronic Communications Code goes on. The latest proposals from DCMS, which were being shoe-horned in to the Infrastructure Bill at the last minute, have been withdrawn by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin. Time constraints mean its almost certain there will be no changes to the legislation before the general election in May 2015.

The proposed changes would have disrupted the market place, which would have created uncertainty over rental values and given operators too intrusive rights over land to make owners willing to offer their properties as potential mast sites. All of this would have held up network development and site roll out and had the opposite effect of the intention of the Code revisions.

Cell:cm has been following the draft infrastructure bill through parliament and liaising with Government Departments, the Law Commission and other industry stakeholders on this since the reforms were first proposed in mid 2012. Under the current Code an existing market is in place for telecoms leases and licences which works pretty well. That should not be interfered with too much. The lack of court case precedents demonstrates this.

Latterly we were in touch with the DCMS and the Law Commission to dissuade them from making the proposed changes. We liaised with RICS, the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers and the NFU to encourage them to make representations to Government against the proposed changes. As a result of this vociferous lobbying and similar from the operators side of the market the proposed changes to the Electronic Communications Code have been dropped from the draft Infrastructure Bill.

The latest amendments to the bill, here refer to the code revisions at Page 55:-

Page  55,  line  32,  leave out clause 49

Member’s explanatory statement 

This amendment and amendments 106 and 107 remove clause 49 and Schedules 8 and 9 which included provision replacing the telecommunications code in Schedule 2 to the Telecommunications Act 1984 with a substantially revised version called the electronic communications code, and made related consequential amendments. The existing telecommunications code will accordingly continue in effect.

This means the existing provision will continue for sites to be valued on the basis of commercial consideration, linked to market value. It is business as usual, for the time being.

If you’d like to discuss this further please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

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