This article was previously published in Property Week on 4 October 2016.
While the right hand of government is actively trying to make the provision of housing easier and faster, the left hand is actively pushing through new statutory rights which could introduce delays of 18 months for some housing developments and limit the suitable sites available for development.
As part of its ‘Digital Britain’ initiative the Department for Culture, Media & Sport introduced the draft New Electronic Communications Code. The New Code had its first reading on 6 July with the second reading and debate on 13 September. The new code governs the installation and removal of telecommunications equipment from property.
This is not something which, on the face of it, rings any alarm bells for housing developers. The new code appears to favour development, making development a ground to refuse the installation of telecommunications equipment on a property and a ground for removal of equipment already there. The new code also excludes the security provisions of the Landlord and Tenant 1954.
However, the code introduces a new longer statutory notice period, increasing the current 6 – 12 months to a minimum of 18 months. It also effectively prevents land with telecommunications equipment installed to be sold with vacant possession. This potentially means that a developer would have to buy a site with telecommunications equipment in situ and wouldn’t be able to develop the site for at least 18 months.
Additionally the rights granted under the code to operators, in respect of access and the ability to share and add equipment to the site, are likely to have a negative effect on both the value of the site and the potential sale of the houses or flats.
This could affect the viability of schemes and may result in less affordable housing. Developers, having only recently become comfortable with tackling sites with telecoms equipment, are more likely to avoid them, thereby reducing the number of suitable sites available for development.
Thekla Fellas, Partner, Fladgate LLP (firstname.lastname@example.org)