- Upper Tribunal moves in favour of landowners in landmark case
Upper Tribunal moves in favour of landowners in landmark case
Upper Tribunal moves in favour of landowners in landmark case1st February 2021 - Published by Kuits Property Litigation team
The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) has handed down its judgement in the case of ‘Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Limited v University of the Arts London’. Property Litigation specialist Hasin Amin discusses the importance of the case and why the Upper Tribunal’s decision is positive news for landowners.
Cornerstone Telecommunications made an application to install and operate communications equipment at the University of the Arts London, utilizing space on the roof of one of the buildings owned by the University. Previous litigation had resulted in the Upper Tribunal (UT) granting Cornerstone interim rights over the site under the Electronic Communications Code.
The University had entered into a complex agreement with a developer for a new campus building on the site. The agreement contained a break clause in favour of the University, conditional on it delivering on the development plan without any other occupants and free from telecoms operators. There was a strong incentive to exercise the break clause by the University as after an initial 18 month rent free period, the rent would increase to £3 million a year. However, there was no date for completion of the new building and Cornerstone did not want to move its equipment on the basis that the development might not even proceed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The University argued that conferring rights to Cornerstone would mean it may not meet its contractual obligations to the developer. Cornerstone regarded these arguments as exaggerated, and submitted that the development could be delayed or not go ahead at all in the form intended.
The UT found that imposing an agreement on the University would cause prejudice that could not be adequately compensated by money. Despite the increased demand on the availability of electronic communications due to COVID-19, it also decided that the public benefit did not outweigh the prejudice.
The UT found that the development of the area was very likely to go ahead, and that it was also not possible to assume that Cornerstone would leave the site without litigation.
What does this mean for landowners?
This particular judgment should be welcomed by landowners, as it has provided clarity as to how they may resist a telecoms operator imposing rights through the Electronic Communications Code on them, especially when they are threatened by the consequences.