My experience in the South West Bedfordshire constituency has been that landowners are still coming forward with sites for masts. This also includes very small landowners in some cases.
Furthermore, the Electronic Communications Code (ECC) was recently reformed as part of the Digital Economy Act 2017. These reforms were intended to reduce the costs of providing communications infrastructure and make it easier for operators to deploy such infrastructure. The new code came into force on 28 December 2017.
The Regulatory Impact Assessment published by the Government estimated that the ECC reforms could lead to a reduction in average market rents (as compared to rents agreed before reforms to the ECC). Some constituents have been in touch with me about the impact of these changes and I have made Ministers aware of their views as further reforms are considered. Based on discussions with stakeholders, the Government identified three main challenges associated with the 2017 reforms. These are issues relating to obtaining and using Code agreements, rights to upgrade and share, and difficulties specifically relating to the renewal of expired agreements.
To ensure the aims of the 2017 reforms are realised, the Government recently held a consultation on further changes to the Code. In its response, the Government indicated that the changes it hopes to make, which will be introduced as legislation as soon as Parliamentary time allows, “will support the installation, maintenance and upgrading/sharing of apparatus, alongside facilitating faster and more collaborative negotiations between operators and site providers, while balancing the public interest in having improved digital connectivity with private property rights”. You might be interested to learn more about the consultation response, which can be found via this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-changes-to-the-electronic-communications-code
I have been informed that in response to the Government’s recent consultation, a significant number of the submissions received referred to the changes which the Digital Economy Act 2017 made to the statutory valuation regime (which affects how much operators are required to pay site providers who use their land). I must, however, point out that, as stated in the consultation, the Government does not intend to revisit the statutory valuation framework. Its position also remains that the framework which underpins negotiations remains appropriate for the installation and maintenance of digital communications infrastructure systems.