back to article Uni of London loses attempt to block mobe mast surveyors from Paddington rooftop

The University of London has lost a Court of Appeal attempt to block a new mobile phone mast that would have served Vodafone's London HQ. Cornerstone Telecommunications, which is jointly owned by Vodafone and Telefónica (parent firm of O2 UK), saw off the university's attempt to overthrow an earlier judgment giving them the …

  1. Snowy

    Vodafone's London HQ also a NIMBY?

    [quote]The University of London has lost a Court of Appeal attempt to block a new mobile phone mast that would have served Vodafone's London HQ.[/quote]

    Why not just put it on the roof of their own building or do they not want to be that close to a mobile phone mast?

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: Vodafone's London HQ also a NIMBY?

      Looking at the photo they have equipment on the roof covered up.

      I thought 5G requires that more masts closer together.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vodafone's London HQ also a NIMBY?

      Because masts focus transmissions sideways to save power so you get poor reception directly underneath it unless you are also in range of another cell tower. If the mast is on a building a couple of streets away you'll get excellent signal though.

      1. MatthewSt Silver badge

        Re: Vodafone's London HQ also a NIMBY?

        Just mount it sideways. Can cover the whole building easier then

        1. paulf

          Re: Vodafone's London HQ also a NIMBY?

          The added benefit of that is there'd be no need to install heating for the meat bags on the top floor, especially when Barry in reception decides to stream something from Youtube, in HD, over 3G.

        2. JetSetJim Silver badge

          Re: Vodafone's London HQ also a NIMBY?

          No need to mounts it sideways - I'm sure the VF-HQ is littered with commercial grade indoor small cells.

          Whether they've been updated to 5G yet is another question, I've yet to hear of it in the field

      2. Snowy

        Re: Vodafone's London HQ also a NIMBY?

        No they do not overlap by that much, yes there is some overlap but nowhere near such that the next tower is providing covering under its neighbour.

        Also from reading about the maximum cell range is about 500 metres and the building are about 62o metres apart.

      3. Suricou Raven

        Re: Vodafone's London HQ also a NIMBY?

        If only Vodaphone had some radio engineers on staff who know how to re-orientate an antenna. Alas, they lack such knowledge.

      4. paulf

        Re: Vodafone's London HQ also a NIMBY?

        Surely the better option would be for Global HQ to call Customer Service on 191 and threaten to leave because of poor signal. They might be able to blag a few free Sure Signal pico cells which would sort it out nicely. /s

  2. cornetman Silver badge

    I would have thought that it was in the best interests of the operators to be nice to landowners of areas they wish to use for masts.

    Lest they find that the mast keeps "failing".

    1. keithpeter Silver badge

      It did occur to me that new buildings may now have 'skin' or 'membrain' roofing more often than now so as to ensure that they fail any potential survey assuming owners don't want the masts...

      1. Symon Silver badge


        I got ta' maintain

        'Cause a nigga like me is goin' insane

        Insane in the membrane

        Insane in the brain!

  3. Lusty

    Don't panic everyone, BoJo is going to fix mobile reception when he wins the election. By magic, apparently.

    1. Handlebars

      Yes, the laws of physics should be decided democratically.

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Yes but Corbin will give FREE 5g to everyone...and if you phone can't receive 5g, you get a new GPO mobile phone. Just have to wait a few years for it to be connected.

      With this bunch of assholes running for power, I now see the appeal of religion.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        This *is* a *political* story about phone masts, "kn0b".

        Or is the Electronic Communications Code not a piece of law passed by politicians? Answers on a postcard.

    4. Wincerind

      I'm sure that the Corbot would just confiscate your house (no compensation) to install a mast, then rent it back to you at a special "rich persons" rate.

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        >I'm sure that the Corbot would just confiscate your house....

        Oh pleeezzzee!!! The PM can't confiscate anything. Policies can be made to do stuff like force councils and building societies to sell of the properties that they own at below market rate but anything else requires a fairly long winded legal process. ("Compulsory purchase")

        There's an interesting article in the UK media today about how our right wing oligarchs provide largesse to fund like minded political thought in the UK. (Don't panic -- I'm not Russian, I'm American so its perfectly all right for us to meddle in UK elections, we're the good guys.) If you can't put a finger on exactly why Corbyn does 'X' then I'd suggest you've been 'had' by our propaganda warriors.

  4. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge


    I saw MSV and immediately thought of a Culture ship . . . Non-Consensual Site Survey would be a pretty good name for a Contact ship, in fact.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: obCultureReference

      Not as bad as Iron Ore Tippler

      I know my BR wagons too well.

  5. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

    I can't be the only person, surely, that has noticed that between Vodafone's HQ and the Lillian Penson Halls building is a fairly large public-ish building known as "Paddington Station". In particular, the roof of the Hilton Paddington!

    There are also some thoroughly ugly modern buildings on Eastbourne Terrace (obscured by the "London Paddington Station" text block in the photo), that would do the job.

    So I conclude that any hypothetical antenna on the roof of Penson Halls has likely less to do with Vodafone's HQ and more to do with covering the area around Paddington and Sussex Gardens.

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      To avoid the article getting unfeasibly long I didn't highlight that the reason behind the Lillian Penson Halls kerfuffle was because Cornerstone needed to replace its existing Paddington mast, which was, in fact, on Eastbourne Terrace - on top of a building scheduled for demolition and redevelopment.

    2. plunet

      The Hilton Metropole just a few hundred meters up the road already has Vodafone (well, it was Clueless and Witless back in the day) assets on the roof - I had a microwave link from there for many years. I would imagine that could target Vodafone HQ as well. So I also guess it's to provide more coverage for the station and Sussex Gardens.

  6. Roland6 Silver badge

    Judgement seems right

    Reading the judgement and the ECC "Code Rights" Clause 3, it does seem the University argument was based on either a flawed reading or an attempt to pick a legal hole in ECC.

    From my IT delivery experience viewpoint, where a site survey/assessment prior to any installation is a normal part of "installation", I think the ECC "Code Rights" clauses 3 (d) is clear: "to carry out any works on the land for or in connection with the installation of electronic communications apparatus" as it does seem to provide for an initial survey/evaluation that is connected to the (potential) installation of equipment (ie. it might result in the decision not to install equipment).

    It seems in the judgement the ECC was well and truly picked over to identify all avenues an operator could use to perform a MSV/site survey to determine if a site was suitable.

    Thinking about the site evaluation, given the powers of access etc. granted by the ECC, a concern has to be how possible sites are selected, ie. did Cornerstone select the University Halls of Residence, because they weren't a commercial office block, or did they blanket the area and thus were surveying several rooftops in the vicinity.

  7. Martin-73 Silver badge

    Can someone dumb this down for me...

    If the uni own the land, what right do a private company have to install equipment on it?

    1. Phil Endecott

      Re: Can someone dumb this down for me...

      See schedule 1 to the Digital Economy Act 2017 (PDF linked by someone else above),

      specifically paragraph 21 on page 139. The operator can ask a court to issue an order requiring a landowner to cooperate if :

      (2) The first condition is that the prejudice caused to the relevant person by the order is capable of being adequately compensated by money.

      (3) Thesecondconditionisthatthepublicbenefitlikelytoresultfrom the making of the order outweighs the prejudice to the relevant person.

      (4) In deciding whether the second condition is met, the court must have regard to the public interest in access to a choice of high quality electronic communications services.

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        Re: Can someone dumb this down for me...

        > specifically paragraph 21 on page 139. The operator can ask a court to issue an order requiring a landowner to cooperate

        I can see we're in for a 'top trumps' set of legal cases deciding on things such as: listed buildings, colonies of newts, colonies of bats, etc.

        I would have thought the Uni's quickest solution would be erect a few bat boxes post haste and hope they get occupied. Maybe a few 'urban' bee hives? Or perhaps, since some (all?) 5G frequencies suffer from rain fade, some hydroponics experiments on the roof top?

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: Can someone dumb this down for me...

          Or simply ok the masts... but refuse permission for the infrastructure to connect them... power lines guv? this court order says nowt about powerlines. Also you may not fit any to our building.

          1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

            Re: Can someone dumb this down for me...

            > but refuse permission for the infrastructure to connect them... power lines guv

            Being forced to allow power to be provided is in the legislation as well. So no go on that one.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Can someone dumb this down for me...

        So the dumbed down version of that is basically, if the telco decide that (eg) your back garden would be a really good site for a mast, and they're willing to pay you lots of rent to put it there, then they can get a court order and then plonk the mast down.

        And your only recourse would basically be "they're not paying me enough money".

        Is that broadly correct?

        1. Cuddles Silver badge

          Re: Can someone dumb this down for me...

          Pretty much. It's not actually a new idea, essentially the same principles apply for things like power and telephone lines. The main difference is that it's extremely rare for anyone to want to build a power line directly through your back garden, so the only people it really affects are farmers and other landowners in rural areas. Hence the clause about being adequately compensated with just money - loss of working land is only really an issue due to the lost income, and most farmers would be very happy to accept an equivalent amount of guaranteed rent in replacement.

          It only starts becoming an issue because things like mobile masts can't just be put on posts along the street because they need line of sight, which in urban areas means on tall buildings. So instead of just taking a corner of a field and paying for the lost crops, you're now demanding that people accept having structural changes, wiring, maintenance access, and so on forcibly applied to their property. Which not only makes it understandable why people might object, but also a lot trickier to figure out if solely monetary compensation is adequate, and if so how much. "This field produces crops worth £x per m^2 and you've taken y m^2" is pretty easy. Sticking an antenna on the corner of a building causes some hassle but not usually any direct monetary damage, but if things go badly it can potentially cause catastrophic damage.

          So this probably isn't the last time it's going to end up in court. It's not really clear how sensible it is to apply the old principles directly to mobile masts, and especially mm-wave 5G ones. And even if you do so, it's not obvious exactly how to do it. As 5G rollouts grow in scale, there are likely to be a lot of arguments about exactly how and where they can do so.

          1. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: Can someone dumb this down for me...

            As it happens my parents have an electricity pole in the middle of their back garden (it was there when they bought the house). IIRC they get the grand total of about £10 a year from the electricity board in rent.

            I suppose most people might think it would be an eyesore, but I grew up there so it just looks normal to me.

  8. IGotOut Silver badge

    Any idea why they objected?

    Please don't tell me it was 5g causes cancer etc...

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Any idea why they objected?

      Probably because once the mast has been installed they can be a nuisance to property maintenance and development.

      Back in the early 1990's, on my advice, the facilities and telecoms manager at my local college had a mast installed on the roofs of buildings across their sites - benefit to the college was several £10k's pa additional income which effectively paid for the intersite leased lines, PABX etc. Roll forward a decade or so, the college decided to redevelop one site. Everything was going well, until someone remembered the masts on the roof... It took the best part of 5 years before the masts were moved (as part of the redevelopment space for the replacement radio mast had to be provided, which in turn required those plans to be changed and resubmitted etc) so that the buildings could be demolished.

      The other reason could be because they know what students get up to and climbing the radio mast may get added to the list...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Any idea why they objected?

      Once the masts are installed, the roof ceases to be "yours" in some respects - if you want to pull to building down, or add another floor (or anything else which affects the masts), you'll find you can't (it's somewhat like having a setting tennant).

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who to piss off - that is the question

    The college. Well they may be arguing rent if the survey says it's a good location.

    The students. Do you know how many ways there are to mess with a radio ;-)

  10. Andy 97

    If the UoL owns the building, wouldn't they benefit financially from the rental of their roof space?

    All they'd need to do would be provide some legal documents and collect even more money for doing (basically) nothing.

    This makes no sense.

    1. JimC

      At a guess

      The Uni thinks that the hassle from students claiming that a mast is melting their snowflake brains way exceeds anything the mast might generate in rental.

      1. sbt

        Nah, it's not brain melting you have to worry about.

        Everyone knows that 5G frequencies:

        • Erase the memory of water, interfering with homeopathic remedies;
        • Activate the mercury in vaccines, causing autism;
        • Misalign chakras and interrupt the flow of Qi, so furniture layouts must be shifted by 90° for good Feng Shui;
        • Increase gaming lag and reduce the refractive index of fibre-optic cable, halving bandwidth;
        • Swap the operation of incognito and tracked mode in browsers;
        • Trigger the sending of any draft messages in phones and e-mail systems; and
        • Redact the naughty parts in hentai.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Nah, it's not brain melting you have to worry about.

          >Misalign chakras and interrupt the flow of Qi, so furniture layouts must be shifted by 90° for good Feng Shui;

          Remember that 90° is with respect to the transmitted radio waves, so it will be in the vertical plane.

          1. sbt

            ... with respect

            Which is a shame; it would have otherwise assisted with placing the furniture appropriately, but 5G frequencies also prevent epoxy adhesives from hardening properly. Co-incidentally, they also interfere with the operation of sildenafil.

  11. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

    Quick win/win option to stop the mast

    Cover the roof with Solar panels, so sorry Vodafone, no room for a mast

  12. John Jennings Bronze badge

    Interesting thing here - new mob masts are springing up all over the place. Equally quickly, some group is putting signs on them about 5 g or painting slogans on them.

    I expect them to be systematically wrecked soon.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      If we call them "new Luddites", will they get confused and smash each other, on the basis that if it's new it must be bad?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        No, they use a whatsapp group on their mobiles to organise.

  13. rob miller

    missed the Profumo Affair angle

    Christine Keeler lived in the now Lillian Penson Hall before it was bought by UofL (during the 'Affair' I'm guessing), or so I was told when I lived there as a visiting postdoc in the mid 90s. There was a woman pensioner still living there from the day, generally unimpressed with Christine and no, not interested in talking about the story any more thank you.

    Worked in the bar and met my wife there, and brilliant locale for clubbing with the easy nightbus access. Them was the days.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: missed the Profumo Affair angle

      Worked in the bar and met my wife there,

      That could have been embarassing, who was she with?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: missed the Profumo Affair angle

      * "Those" were the days! I see that UoL can be proud of the record in education...

      1. Mark192 Silver badge

        Re: missed the Profumo Affair angle

        Non - standard grammar doesn't count as wrong when it's a deliberate colloquialism.

  14. Rich 2 Silver badge

    A bit confused

    So, they wanted access to the roof to do a survey. So, where were they planning on placing the mast?

    A law that says Vodafone may perform a survey of the uni's roof (which I disagree with, but that's besides the point) is quite different from a law that says Vodafone are allowed to stick a mast the the uni's roof.

    Surely, the latter would definitely need the agreement of the uni? And if they won't allow it (which I would think seems likely in this case) then there's no point in doing the survey anyway.

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      It's the other way round

      There's no question that Vodafone are entitled to put a mast on the roof – just whether the law that permits it extends to doing surveys. Not that I begin to understand the quoted judge's reasoning (I suspect something important was omitted) but the University's case was based on a legal quibble and contrary to common belief judges tend to not like quibbles.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A bit confused

      To understand the law, I point you in the direction of this famous scene from a certain imfamous movie from 1979...

      Francis: Why are you always on about women, Stan?

      Stan: I want to be one.

      Reg: What?

      Stan: I want to be a woman. From now on, I want you all to call me 'Loretta'.

      Reg: What?

      Stan: It's my right as a man.

      Judith: Well, why do you want to be Loretta, Stan?

      Stan: I want to have babies.

      Reg: You want to have babies?

      Stan: It's every man's right to have babies if he wants them.

      Reg: But... you can't have babies!

      Stan: Don't you oppress me!

      Reg: I'm not oppressing you, Stan! You haven't got a womb! Where's the foetus going to gestate? You going to keep it in a box?

      Stan: [starts to cry]

      Judith: Here! I've got an idea: Suppose you agree that he can't actually have babies, not having a womb - which is nobody's fault, not even the Romans' - but that he can have the *right* to have babies.

      Francis: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for your right to have babies, brother... sister, sorry.

      Reg: What's the *point*?

      Francis: What?

      Reg: What's the point of fighting for his right to have babies, when he can't have babies?

      Francis: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.

      Reg: It's symbolic of his struggle against reality.

  15. Aussie Doc Bronze badge


    Nice mast you have there.

    Be a shame if something were to happen to it.

  16. Spanners Silver badge

    Will the students object? It depends...

    I like to think that STEM students can be educated about the effects of non-ionising radiation and about the inverse square law.

    I imagine the UoL has political science students who will "know" that radio waves are radioactivity, will make you glow in the dark, ruin your Feng Shui and thereby kill you.

    Their legal students will want to see court cases in action.

    Their engineering students may want to take it to bits to see how it works.

    Do they have an OTC there? I knew people, when I was in one somewhere else, who would have loved to demolish things like that.

    Journalism students can learn how to misrepresent whatever is going on.

    Anyone doing IT can have fun poking their way the security systems and get free 5G.

  17. Mark192 Silver badge

    Hmm, so I've learnt that the telcos can plonk a mast on your property whether you like it or not as long as the pay you sufficient £££ for the inconvenience.

    Rather than spend money on further (doomed) court cases, the uni should implement plans for solar panels and settle plans for a roof extension x years into the future.

    Rather than paying the uni for loss of otherwise unused roof space, the telcos will need to compensate them for loss of income / leccy for the would - have - otherwise - been - present - honest - guv solar panels and, much more expensive, the opportunity cost of not having the extension.

    They'll pretty quickly find that the telcos decide an alternative site will be cheaper or will maximise the yearly income, raising it to something worthwhile.

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