The 2017 Electronic Communications Code enables Ofcom-registered operators, including all of the UK’s established mobile phone providers, to acquire rights over land. It is now well-established that such rights include the ability to apply to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) for a right to go on to land, including buildings, to carry out surveys to assess the land’s suitability for the installation of telecommunications equipment.

It is therefore now common for landowners to receive correspondence from operators’ agents seeking consent to carry out surveys. If such correspondence is ignored, the operator will often apply to the Tribunal for an order imposing the right to carry out such surveys.

It is very difficult for a landowner to persuade the Tribunal that it should not make such an order. For example, London Underground was recently ordered by the Tribunal to provide access to a high security building in central London designated as critical national infrastructure, despite London Underground’s security concerns. Therefore, a landowner is usually best advised to negotiate terms with the operator for a survey licence rather than becoming embroiled in potentially expensive Upper Tribunal litigation.

The terms of a survey licence will usually cover such matters as the survey period, what surveys the operator can carry out, payment of compensation for expenses incurred by the landowner and health and safety matters.

The Tribunal has repeatedly emphasised that a landowner should not be left out of pocket as the result of a survey. A landowner is therefore entitled to insist that its legal and professional fees relating to a survey licence are paid by the operator.

Bevan Brittan has extensive experience in advising landowners on telecommunications issues including the grant of survey licences. If you would like to discuss this topic in more detail or if you have received correspondence from an operator and would like advice, please contact Mark Robertson, Partner.

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