The UK Government’s push to increase mobile phone coverage across Wales has hidden, and potentially expensive, side effects for farmers, according Farmers’ Union of Wales.
Under the Digital Economy Act 2017, the ECC (para 2) 23 states that the market value of land used for telecoms equipment should not relate to the use of that equipment, effectively reducing any payment as if it were an ordinary agricultural rent rather than high-tech telecoms rates (plus compensation, including contribution towards professional fees, if justified).
“So, for example, a telecoms company looking at rural sites interpret they can offer pro-rata agricultural rates .Therefore if market rent for farm land is £150 a year per acre, this means that a mast compound may only equate to £3.70 a year in rent. Worse still, if the farmer refuses, under the new act the company can seek to impose rights through the Upper Tribunal,” said Mr Parry. Theoretically there could be a situation where a farmer has bought land on mortgage and he could be forced to accept a mast site on his land at a very low rent and also be deprived of the use of that land for agricultural purposes, Mr Parry explained.