By Farmers Weekly staff

MOBILE phone base stations can be a useful source of extra income – but farmers must take account of all legal and financial aspects of the deal before allowing developers on to their land, warns a leading north-east legal firm.

“This new use of farmland has been a lucrative source of income for many, with initial bonus payments and yearly rental approaching £3000 for a small site,” says Neil Stevenson, a partner of Darlington solicitors Latimer Hinks.

“But phone operators have built thousands of these stations across the country, and are experienced enough to adopt a strong bargaining position to protect their interests once they have been granted permission to move onto the land.”

Once an operator has secured a presence it will often allow rival operators to share the use of the base, he notes.

“Unless landowners have specified in the contract that they must be consulted over such future developments, and the terms on which this will be allowed, they will receive no financial reward for this further use of their land.”

Mr Stevenson also stresses the importance of fixing a regular rent review period. “Three years is the standard. Anything longer could act against the landowner.

“Similarly, operators usually seek a provision allowing them to end the agreement. The same right should also be afforded to the landowner – and the operator should also be required to return the site to its original condition if the agreement is terminated.”