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Communications Act 2003

Section 118: Compulsory acquisition of land etc.

279.Schedule 4 confers on code operators the power to purchase compulsorily land in England and Wales and Scotland, where authorised by the Secretary of State and with the consent of OFCOM. In Northern Ireland, code operators may purchase compulsorily land by requesting (with the consent of OFCOM) the Secretary of State to order that land vests in them. This provision re-enacts sections 34 to 40 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 (which are repealed by the Act), with certain consequential amendments to take account of the abolition of the regulatory regime under the Telecommunications Act 1984.

  • *A code operator is a provider of an electronic communications network to whom OFCOM have applied the electronic communications code.

280.The power to purchase compulsorily extends to land that is required by the code operator for or in connection with the establishment or running of an operator’s network. For the purposes of Schedule 4, an operator’s network does not include a conduit system.

281.In England and Wales, the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 and, in Scotland, the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) (Scotland) Act 1947 applies to compulsory purchases by code operators as if they were local authorities within the meaning of those Acts. Under these Acts, code operators must make and publish an order so that land owners are given the right to object to the purchase and to have their objections heard. Only after objections have been heard can the Secretary of State be requested to confirm the order. In Northern Ireland, the Secretary of State must follow the procedures laid down in Schedule 6 to the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) Act 1972 and Schedule 8 to the Health and Personal Social Services (Northern Ireland) Order 1972.

282.Where land is acquired compulsorily in England and Wales and Scotland, the benefit of certain provisions in, respectively, the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 applies to code operators.

283.A code operator may not dispose of any land purchased compulsorily in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland except with the consent of OFCOM.

284.Paragraph 19 of Schedule 18 (transitional provisions) provides that any compulsory purchase orders, vesting orders or authorisations made by the Secretary of State which are effective immediately before the commencement of Schedule 4 are to have effect after the commencement of that Schedule as if made or given under that Schedule.

285.Paragraphs 6, 7 and 8 of Schedule 4 enable representatives of code operators authorised by the Secretary of State in writing to enter upon and survey (at any reasonable time) any land (except land covered by buildings or used as a garden or pleasure ground) in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for the purpose of ascertaining whether it would be suitable for use by them for, or in connection with, the establishment or running of their networks. The powers of entry conferred on code operators are subject to the following provisions:

  • in England and Wales, sections 324(8) and 325(1) to (5), (8) and (9) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as modified);

  • in Scotland, sections 269(9) and 270(1) to (5), (8) and (9) of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 (as modified); and

  • in Northern Ireland, section 40(2) to (5) and (8) of the Land Development Values (Compensation) Act (Northern Ireland) 1965 (as modified).

286.Code operators must make good, or pay compensation for, any damage caused to land or chattels by the exercise of their power of entry. Compensation must also be paid for any disturbance in the enjoyment of land or chattels of any person by the exercise of their power of entry.

287.Paragraph 9(1) of Schedule 4 applies certain provisions of Part 1 of the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965 for the purpose of the acquisition of land in England and Wales by agreement by code operators. Sub-paragraphs (2) and (3) apply the corresponding enactments in Scotland and Northern Ireland, respectively.

288.In exercising her powers under Schedule 4, the Secretary of State must have regard to the duties imposed on OFCOM under sections 3 and 4 of the Act and the need to protect the environment, to ensure that highways are not damaged or obstructed, to minimise interference with traffic and to encourage the sharing of electronic communications apparatus (see paragraph 2).

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