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Hidden consequences of the new Electronic Communications Code

As discussed in recent weeks, the new Electronic Communications Code raises concerns for landowners contemplating demolition and redevelopment projects. But there are other, more hidden problems.

Housing minister Gavin Barwell has unveiled new measures last month to speed up housebuilding in his Neighbourhood Development Bill.

In his first speech as minister, he outlined the government’s desire to make more land available for residential development and to increase the speed of development once a site has been acquired.

That goal is probably something most people would agree with. However, this does not seem to be an outcome desired by all government departments.

Contradictory position

At the same time as the housing minister is trying to increase supply and get things moving faster, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is pushing through a new Electronic Communications Code to make it easier for mobile phone operators to install masts and equipment on sites and make it harder for them to be removed.

In fact, from the current drafting of the code it appears unlikely that a developer would be able to purchase a site with vacant possession from operators, and it would probably take more than two years to remove them.

An 18-month notice would have to be given, to which the operator can serve a counter-notice, and court proceedings would have to be issued.

This would have the effect of:

  • Putting developers completely off sites – thereby reducing available supply; or
  • It taking much longer for sites to be developed – more than two years before commencement; and
  • Possibly affecting the viability of sites and potentially reducing affordable housing.

While connectivity is seen as an important part of most people’s lives, housing is even more important and, with the current housing shortage, this is really not the time to be introducing even more hurdles to construction and development.

Thekla Fellas heads the real estate telecoms team at Fladgate

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