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The Law Commission published its proposals on 28 February 2013 for reform of the Electronic Communications Code after consultation.


The Code was created in 1984 under the Telecommunications Act 1984 to enable telephone companies to place landline telephone equipment on land. It was updated in 2003 to reflect changes in telecoms technology. The Code is designed to help the installation and maintenance of telecoms networks. It gives rights to licensed network operators to install and maintain telecoms equipment in, over and under land. It regulates the legal relationships between landowners and the operators, and allows the operators to acquire compulsory rights over land in some cases. The current Code is considered by many to be complex and confusing, inconsistent with other legislation, and not up to date with modern technology.


The Law Commission has made a number of detailed recommendations, which it says would:-

  1. provide a clearer definition of the market value that landowners can charge for the use of their land, giving them greater confidence in negotiating and giving operators a better idea of what their network is likely to cost
  2. clarify the conditions under which a landowner can be ordered to give an operator access to land, bringing more certainty to both sides and helping them to reach agreement more easily
  3. resolve inconsistencies between the current Code and other legislation, (especially the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 that deals with business tenancies and applies to some telecoms arrangements)
  4. clarify the rights of landowners to remove network equipment from land
  5. specify limited rights for operators to upgrade and share their network equipment, and
  6. improved procedures for resolving disputes under the Code

The recommendations focus on private property rights between landowners and operators, they do not consider changes in planning law.


Any changes made to the Code would only apply to future arrangements, they would not change existing agreements between operators and landowners unless they are renewed under the new Code. The new Code is likely to be welcomed by both landowners and operators. However, it is not clear when the government will draft it. For the time being operators installing apparatus for the new 4G networks will have to continue to do so under the existing regime.

For more information, please contact Julian Busfield, Senior Solicitor in IBB’s Commercial Real Estate team on julian.busfield@ibblaw.co.uk or 01895 207 811.

IBB has one of the largest real estate groups in West London and the South East, with expertise in commercial development, residential development, real estate finance, real estate investment and management, construction and real estate dispute resolution. Contact a member of the team by visiting the relevant service page, call us on 08456 381381 or email enquiries@ibblaw.co.uk.