Legal development

Telecoms apparatus? Don't [way]leave it too late!

fibre optic cables background

    It's the stuff of nightmares. You're all set for your shiny new redevelopment project: planning is approved, leasehold interests terminated, occupiers have vacated and your contractors are all lined up and ready to start work. But suddenly everything comes to a grinding halt. The culprit? Previously unidentified telecommunications apparatus.

    What's the issue?

    Telecommunications providers that have been designated as Code operators by OFCOM (see a full list here) have significant statutory protections under the New Telecoms Code, found in Schedule 3A of the Communications Act 2003. In particular, where telecoms apparatus has been installed pursuant to a New Code agreement, a site provider will need to give at least 18 months' notice to the operator in order to terminate its code rights, followed by a further period of reasonable notice requiring the operator to remove its apparatus. The New Code also only allows termination on very specific grounds, which include redevelopment.

    Due to these long notice periods, developers who only realise that there is telecoms apparatus on site at a late stage can face unexpected costs and delay.

    What can you do to avoid this happening?

    The answer to this simple: investigate whether there is telecommunications apparatus installed in, under or over the land that you are planning to develop as early as possible in your project.

    The easiest way to do this is to instruct desktop wayleave searches and, in conjunction, commission a survey from a reputable telecoms surveyor. The surveyor will visit the site and carry out desktop research, and will be able to tell you if there is any telecoms apparatus at the site that needs to be removed (or, at least, moved to a different location). Fees for searches and surveys are modest compared to the potentially hefty costs incurred in an unexpectedly delayed development project.

    If there are telecoms agreements and apparatus identified, you can then contact us and we can advise on the relevant rights afforded to the operator(s), how the agreement(s) can be terminated and the apparatus removed. It is also worth bearing in mind that while the New Code is now the primary piece of legislation in this area, different rights may be applicable depending on (among other things) when the apparatus was installed and the designation of the operator in question.

    We can also then take the necessary steps, including the preparation and service of statutory notices to terminate the relevant rights and to allow you to require removal of the apparatus.

    If you have any queries at all on this please get in touch.

    AuthorJoe Perry-Courtade, Associate

    The information provided is not intended to be a comprehensive review of all developments in the law and practice, or to cover all aspects of those referred to.
    Readers should take legal advice before applying it to specific issues or transactions.


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