Category Archives: Telecommunications

The New Telecoms Code – Are You Equipped?

Telecoms code

With the new Telecoms code coming into force this Autumn John Staves gives his opinion on what this new code will mean for site owners.

“I believe that the new Telecoms code will have an adverse effect on transactions; rather than easing the process which is the declared intent of the changes, site owners will be reluctant to agree leases that come under the code and renewals and new site roll out will be delayed as a result. 

Costs will increase as a result of more deals being taken to tribunal and the improved mobile services envisaged will not materialise. 

Just imagine letting a room in your house to one person and finding that you have any number of unknown visitors coming in and out as they please, without any more compensation being payable to you.  You have no power to set the rent or control who visits, whilst your lodger can charge anyone he likes to share the facilities without needing your permission!

Unintended consequences of poorly drafted legislation seem to be the order of the day.”

Last October Thekla Fellas, Fladgate LLP  was our key note speaker at our Telecommunications Seminar at Leicestershire Fire & Rescue Headquarters. Thekla has particular expertise in telecommunications disputes under the Electronic Communications Code.

telecoms code

More recently, in September 2017 John Staves attended Thekla’s seminar; The New Telecommunications Code: are you equipped?

To understand the main changes to the code and how the new procedures  will work click here

As one of the UK’s leading Telecoms Site Management companies, we provide professional, independent advice to Fire and Police Authorities to maximise the value and performance of their property portfolios.

If you want to find out how we can help you, please give us call on: 0118 962 9666.

Maintenance of External Fire Escape Staircases and Drill Towers

drill tower and fire escape

Today I’m talking to John Staves, our Managing Director about the issues of maintaining drill towers and external fire escapes and the need for regular structural checks.

Why Are Regular Maintenance Inspections So Important?

You have a safety obligation as an owner of that structure to maintain it in a reasonable way so that it doesn’t cause injury to anybody using it.

Regular maintenance inspections allows you to;

  • head off serious problems, which if left unchecked, can be far more costly
  • to identify problems before they become major issues and helps you avoid any unplanned maintenance activity
  • Increase the life expectancy of your drill towers and / or external staircases

How Often Should You Carry Out Maintenance Inspections?

I think maintenance inspections to check the structure every three years is sensible.

But this might be increased if you are in a more aggressive environment eg coastal where you have got marine effects on corrosion.

What Are The Main Cause of Deterioration?

External Staircases

Typically it’s weather exposure because they are external structures – they are bound to deteriorate over time.

Even a galvanised structure has a life to it. Just because it’s galvanised doesn’t mean it will last forever – you still have to schedule regular inspections!

Sometimes it’s poor initial design details, for example where a design has allowed water to pond in a particular location.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of age.

Drill Towers – Masonry Structures

Not only do they have the normal weathering environment (masonry does need re-pointing over a period of time anyway) but it’s accelerated on a drill tower because of the drill practice.

Most drill towers are subject to high pressure hosing (usually around first floor level) often there is damage to the surface of the brickwork, which would need identifying and treating.

Typically What Involvement Have You Had With Structural Assessments Of Drill Towers And External Staircases?

We have carried out 50 + of inspections of external staircases and drill towers across the UK for Fire Authorities and commercial customers.

Mainly as part of an on-going maintenance program, but recently we were called into a commercial property where they’d had a fire.

The fire brigade had attended the site and criticised the external fire escape. The owners of the building appointed us carry out a full structural assessment the condition of the fire escape and report on our findings.

What Do You Report On?

We visit sites and carry out a visual structural survey of the building fabric. We inspect staircases, platforms, walkways, ladders and drill towers.

We provide a Structural Inspection Report which includes a Schedule of Defects.

The Structural Report would;

  • identify any structural defects on, or around the staircase/drill tower
  • identify the causes of the defect
  • suggest remedial works, the urgency of repair and maintenance options

Planned Maintenance

We operate on a Red, Amber and Green system, helping you identify issues that are most urgent so you can plan your maintenance more efficiently.

red amber green








For example, for one of our customers we had identified a number of staircases within their portfolio that required external painting.

They were able to package together the work so that the contractors could move efficiently from site to site and carry out the work for the lower cost.

Why Use A Structural Engineer To Carry Out An Assessments And Not A Surveyor?

Fundamentally drill towers and external staircases are structures.

If you are looking for a relevant competent person it makes sense that a structural engineer inspects the structure.

A good structural engineer will have knowledge of the actual structure and general building fabric. Drill towers are loadbearing structures, so it’s all structure and a structural engineer would be the most appropriate person to make the assessment.

Generally we are not looking at general building defects, we are talking about defects that affect the structural components – which is usually the basis of safety.

If your structure is failing – that’s a safety issue.

Are you responsible for the maintenance of any external staircases or drill towers?

When was the last time you carried out a Health Check on your External Staircases / Drill Towers?

Why not book a no obligation telephone consultation to find out how we could help you fulfill your Health & Safety obligations. Call us today on 0118 962 9666.

“Having worked well with Michael Aubrey Partnership before, they were an obvious choice to undertake structural assessments of external staircases/drill towers. They surveyed a number of sites across a large geographical area. Their reports were clear and concise and the “Red, Amber, Green” assessment helped us easily identify sites where remedial work was urgent. Using this information we were able to plan our maintenance programme in the most efficient way”.Graeme Major, Estate and Facilities Manager, Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service

Happy Retirement Duncan Wells!

Happy Retirement Duncan

At the end of this month our colleague Duncan Wells will (finally!) be retiring at the ripe old age of 71.

A friend of John’s for over 15 years, Duncan has worked at Michael Aubrey Partnership since 2010, negotiating contracts with Telecoms Operators on behalf of the Fire and Police Service.

Duncan will be greatly missed.

Talking about his retirement Duncan said,

I’ve had a great time at Michael Aubrey Partnership – and I’ve enjoyed every single moment.  I’ll be sorry to leave – I really mean it this time! I wish everyone at Michael Aubrey all the very best and I’ll be staying in touch”.

Duncan’s replacement, Gary Meek has been working alongside Duncan since January, familiarising himself with all the Site management contracts, operators and their representatives.

Presenting Duncan with his leaving gift John Staves said,

We wish you all the very best in your retirement, it’s been great working with you and we hope that you’ll enjoy your gift – please keep in touch“.

Managing Structural Safety – Condition Surveys , Seminar Part Three

Condition Surveys

Our third speaker for the day was John Staves, Managing Director at Michael Aubrey Partnership. John is a Chartered Structural Engineer and has worked in the Telecoms industry for over 30 years.

Specialist Telecoms Knowledge

He could be described as a “poacher turned game keeper” as initially, John’s specialist knowledge was gained through working with the mobile operators – he understands the Telecoms market and it gives Michael Aubrey Partnership a unique stand point when representing the Fire and Police Services – providing them with independent, unbiased advice.

John opened his presentation talking about what the drivers were for structural safety, with reference to BS8210 2012. He talked about how British Standards are moving away from being prescriptive to acting more as a “prompt” to think. Allowing you to set out a framework – more of a risk management approach where you;

  • identify hazards
  • identify who could be at risk
  • eliminate, reduce or control the hazard and
  • train those affected by it

Telecoms Condition Surveys

John shared his experience talking through a recent case study where Michael Aubrey Partnership were asked to undertake detailed condition surveys on 65+ drill towers and ancillary structures across the UK.

Masonry drill tower







Using a traffic light system of categorisation he was able to help the Fire Authorities identify which structures were in urgent need of repair.

  • 13% of drill towers were identified as being “red” and having defects so serious that they required immediate action
  • Over half of drill towers required maintenance within 12 months

Maintenance Schedule

Ordered by priority, a maintenance schedule was generated which allowed the Fire Authorities to plan their maintenance project around this.

Economies of scale were able to be achieved with contractors, as maintenance programs could be carried out in a methodical, planned way.

Importance of Routine Maintenance

John also talked about the importance of regular routine maintenance.

Whilst unexpected deterioration, damage or failures may still occur, with a regular maintenance cycle you will minimise the need for major refurbishment and repairs

Structures deteriorate over time and will continue to deteriorate if regular routine maintenance is not carried out. Minor repairs and preventative maintenance, should minimise future problems and ensure your structures remain in peak condition.

In summary;

  • Adopt a risk based approach
  • Set your maintenance policy in line with the British Standard BS8210: 2012
  • Adopt a tier based approach with regular inspections and reporting by users, annual reporting by your estates department and specialised surveys every 3 years

When was the last time you carried out a detailed inspection of your property portfolio? If you did, would you find your sites in the Red or Green category?

Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016 (CEMF) Seminar Part Two

Electromagnetc spectrum

Our second speaker for the day was Brian Collins, BSC Associates. Brian is a specialist in radio frequency (RF), Radiation, RF measurement and the Health and Safety impacts of RF radiation.

On 1 July 2016 the Control of Electromagnetic Fields at Work Regulations 2016 (CEMF) came into force. Brian outlined the regulations’ requirements and their likely impact in the workplace.

Electromagnetic fields at work

Brian described the main areas that have changed are;

  • There is now a requirement for documentation
  • ALL sources of EMF’s are included
  • There is a specific requirement to consider workers at particular risk

The CEMF requires employers to assess and limit the levels of Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) to which their workers are exposed and minimise the risks to workers arising from exposure to EMFs. This does not include long-term effects.

Any assessment should be recorded and where the exposure limits values and/or action values are exceeded, an action plan should be prepared and implemented.

Brian described the typical base station antenna radiation patterns and how you cannot tell how hazardous a situation is, unless you can determine how much power is being fed to the antenna – a visual inspection is not enough.

Base station antenna

Brain described that as an employer you must;

  • Document the potential exposure of your employees
  • Obtain information directly from the radio system operator
  • Insist that operators regularly update their information on potential hazards as Installations for the mobile service are frequently modified
  • Be particularly aware of real danger to employees at special risk

Speaking after Brian’s presentation John Staves said

It is clear from Brian’s presentation that the new Regulations will increase awareness of RF issues and also simplify the ways that property owners can demonstrate compliance”.

How do you think these new regulations will affect you and your business? We’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Telecommunications Code Seminar, Part One

Telecommunications code

Property Managers, Health and Safety advisors and those responsible for property assets, gathered at Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Headquarters yesterday to attend the first in a series of seminars exploring the implications of the new Telecommunications code, RF and Structural Safety.

After welcome and introductions from Duncan Wells, Michael Aubrey Partnership, Thekla Fellas, Fladgate Solicitors opened the seminar examining how the new code will affect property owners.

Thekla talked about why the government feels reform is necessary; citing their commitment to incentivising investment to fully support the rollout of the country’s digital communications infrastructure.

Thekla talked about;

  • How the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) want to make it faster, easier to secure sites for the Operators – it’s a political decision
  • How it is going to be virtually impossible for landowners to get Operators off their sites
  • How the new telecommunications code will give Telecoms operators access to land – moving to a “no scheme” basis of valuation regime (a  valuation which will favour Telecoms operators).
  • How the new telecommunications code will put digital communications infrastructure on a similar regime to utilities like electricity and water.
  • New rights that will make it easier for telecommunications operators to deploy and maintain their infrastructure
  • Telecommunications operators will have a new automatic right to upgrade and share apparatus
  • Telecommunications operators cannot be charged extra for changes where there is minimal adverse visual impact or burden on site providers.
  • Improved dispute resolution

Telecommunications code

What Impact Will The New Telecommunications Code Have For Property Owners?

The change in the basis of valuation to a “no scheme” rule reflecting the underlying value of the land. Reduced rental income: This will limit the value of consideration that the site owner receives for granting the lease.

When Will this take Effect?

The new Telecommunications Code rights will only apply to contracts signed after the law has come into effect and will not apply to existing contracts retrospectively – transitional provisions are not supposed to be retrospective. The bill is currently scheduled to come into effect in Spring 2017.

Speaking after the event John Staves said

No one is sure what impact this new legislation will have on property owners, but after listening to Thekla’s presentation I think that these changes could well be detrimental to the operators who will find that property owners are reluctant to allow new installations with such sweeping terms. 

It seems really odd that private companies already making huge profits are being given powers which appear to reduce their costs at the expense of private landowners. 

Whilst the intent to make better communications readily available is positive, my concern is that the proposed Code will not achieve this objective and could well slow network development by driving more deals for sites to the Courts for determination“.

Are you a property owner? How do you think this new legislation will have an impact on your property portfolio?