Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill

Written evidence submitted by Sandra Parkinson (PSTIB1 6 )

For the Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill

1.1 Stalling of renewal agreements: effect of rent reduction

From Sandra Parkinson ,

This situation is hardly surprising, due to the reduced rents being offered and imposed on site providers.

I am distressed that the rent for the Mast on my land, situated at the edge of a Local Wildlife Site, will be so drastically reduced – all in one go – in my case I have been offered a 70% reduction – which I am told is ‘generous’.

Most of the rent went to pay for management of the 9 hectare LWS, as Countryside Stewardship payments do not cover much of the work needed on the site. Together with the coming reductions in BPS, my farm income will reduce by almost 50% and there appears to be no indication that the forthcoming new environmental schemes (ELMS, LNR, etc) will come anywhere near compensating for this. The LWS will inevitably suffer as my small acreage of marginal steep land cannot produce an alternative income to support its care.

I have an 11 KVA power line going through my land for which I receive wayleave payments. Using the payment per square meter of land ‘lost’ to the electricity poles and cable struts, the current rent received for the Phone Mast would be comparable for the land ‘lost’ to the Mast square meter area.

I am appalled that some farmers are being offered only the agricultural rental value of the land occupied which is derisory.

1.2 Stalling of renewal terms: unreasonable renewal terms (not rental)

I am currently starting to draw up my fourth lease (my Phone Mast was erected in 1994, and my current lease has lapsed) and am outraged by several items in the initial Heads of Terms. For example; the operator is demanding 24/7 access, without permission or an appointment; and that I should be held responsible for maintaining the track and fields so that they are suitable for access at all times. In wet weather even I have difficulty getting up my steep track in a 4x4, let alone the fields.

I feel obliged to protect the Local Wildlife Site which is nationally threatened chalk downland habitat in a Priority Target Area.

This I can only do if I am forewarned about each site visit, as although I had a verbal agreement requiring the use of a 4x4, many engineers and inspectors come in cars and even vans and cannot make the last section of the access route (and sometimes not the first section). I need to specify how far I will allow them up the access route according to the kind of vehicle they are driving. Simply for the day to day management of the land I need to know who and when visitors are around to avoid clashing with livestock movements, livestock handling, deer stalkers, and naturalists researching in the LWS. All these need somewhere to park, as well as quiet and no disturbance.

2 ADR

If operators followed the OFCOM recommendations for how to behave when negotiating leases with site owners, and observed the lease agreement, then the need for ADR would be irrelevant or at least lessened.

3 Six month limit

This is laughable. Over the years, as each new lease has been negotiated, I have had to use specialist solicitors (or rather my land agent has). Each one took longer and longer (the last one 16 months) though this was due to the turbulence of changing ownership of the Tower during negotiations, with resulting changes to the operator’s legal staff, and then sub-leasing to a management contractor. Presuming that site owners are to be permitted to use their own legal advisors, I see little chance of meaningfully applying any time limit.

4 Breaches of agreements and OFCOM code of practice

Now Mast visitors have laptops, and are given site information, they do manage to find the Mast (in the past they could not, sometimes driving around for hours before coming to look for me) but are still not given, or do not follow, the correct access route detailed in the lease agreement. Over the nearly 30 years the Mast has been on my land considerable damage has been done to the LWS, and to my farm track, which, in wet weather, then results in minor flooding in the main road from which the access route starts.

The Bill (the 2017 version also) does not provide enough protection to site owners for bad and sometimes just neglectful treatment of site owners and their land (see ‘Minor changes’ comments below).

I only have occasional problems with the behaviour of the electricity power line personnel when they have to visit my land, which quite often is due to some emergency. I have no written agreement with them. I also have an aviation fuel pipeline bisecting my land, which causes me several land management problems – regarding things I am prohibited from doing in the pipeline wayleave area. However, the pipeline inspector only visits twice a year, by appointment, and am always asked where the livestock are, where he should park, and he lets me know when he has completed his inspection. For such infrequent visits and for such courtesy I tolerate the fact I receive no wayleave payments for the pipeline. Nor is there a written agreement with them (just a published list of ‘do nots’)

5 Minor changes

It should be possible to make minor changes to the lease agreement, in writing, that are legally binding.

Over the years you learn what other things you need to protect or demand. For example, I temporarily had a grazier with organic cattle, and in order to keep them had to guarantee that pesticides would not be used near or inside the Tower Compound (as was the operator’s practice). I also wish I had it written into the agreement that maintenance and upgrade engineers picked up all their rubbish. Livestock (and deer) eat plastic cable clips; strapping and bolts can damage mowing machinery; leftover meat sandwiches are not good for sheep. It is no good requesting a re-visit – the debris has to be collected immediately - before livestock finds it and/or the growing grass hides it.

With a lower rent I would expect to be compensated for such additional work, for having to move livestock, etc. I will be asking for track repairs in my new agreement.

6 Sharing and Upgrades (Para 17, condition 2)

My lapsed agreement includes the operator’s right to share and upgrade, and I am concerned that for a lower rent I should be able to claim for damage to my land caused by increased visits if the site is shared, and for extra work caused by upgrades (see ‘Minor changes’ above).

I would also want to have some say in the increase of equipment on the Mast, but more particularly inside the compound, which is now more or less full of cabinets. Extension of the existing fenced compound into the marked ‘Property’ area, would make it almost impossible for me to enter an adjacent field with a tractor and trailer for access to the adjoining woodland for forestry work.

7 New sites

I feel great sympathy if there are landowners who are being approached - and ‘forced’ -to accommodate a mast on their land. With hindsight I would not have agreed to locating one on my land, and now regret it, even though it has paid for fencing the LWS (which is largely inaccessible by tractor) and for re-fencing part of the access route (in order to avoid damage to the hay crop), and most of the forestry work on the farm.

I agreed, partly because I suspected a neighbour would install one which would have been a blot on the landscape, feeling that if the mast was on my land I could at least dictate where it was sited. The rent for the initial lease was not a great attraction, though as it was increased later, it became welcome income to pay for non-profit making land management.

Back dated rent

I personally would be outraged if protracted lease renewal negotiations resulted in back dated rent reductions.

March 2022

 

Prepared 18th March 2022