Farmers and landowners whose ground lies below the new Beauly-Denny power line have been warned they could lose out on thousands of pounds a year if they accept the standard rates currently offered by power companies for the legal right to access land.
According to Ian Thornton-Kemsley, of land agents Strutt & Parker, hundreds of farmers risk being “ripped-off” when power companies negotiate agreements to use the fibre-optic cables installed on the line for telecommunication purposes. The standard industry rate for power company access to cables on farmland is 62.5p per metre per year. However, Mr Thornton-Kemsley said farmers and landowners should be aware that a recent court settlement in England required an energy company to pay a landowner £62 per metre per year.
“Landowners should be aware that the electricity companies are letting out fibre rights in these cables to major telecommunication operators such as Vodafone and Virgin Media for sums considerably in excess of that being offered to landowners,” he said.
“Power suppliers may be acting in an anti-competitive market while dealing with landowners over fibre-optic agreements. In nearly every case the landowner should be able to achieve a better deal than the industry standard.”
He argued that the same rule applied to the entire network of around 12,000km of fibre-optic cable on pylon lines across Scotland, as well as to access to radio masts.
Mr Thornton-Kemsley, one of the UK’s specialists on values in the telecoms market, said the current rates were based on a deal agreed in 2004 plus a Retail Price Index increase, rather than open market value.
“Such a rate is not representative of the open market value of the rights being sought,” he said.
“You would not sell farmland based on such methodology, so why agree fibre rates on such a basis? Landowners should therefore be wary of approaches from agents for companies seeking new agreements, particularly where long-terms agreements are being sought.
“Frankly, there is nothing more annoying than discovering that someone else is making a lot of money on one’s asset – and that, in retrospect, this could have been avoided.”
SSE said that they already had agreements in place with landowners where the fibre-optic cable on the Beauly-Denny powerline is being used for commercial purposes.
A spokesman for ScottishPower said they were not currently leasing any telecommunications capacity on the Beauly-Denny line. He added: “We have 17km of the 210km line and it’s in the southern part, in Stirlingshire, and it is predominantly for our own purposes.”