A PENSIONER has reluctantly signed a deal with EE to have a permanent 20-metre-high phone mast in his back garden.

Paul Smith, who lives in Dunley, just outside of Stourport, signed a 12-month contract with the mobile network operator in 2017 to have a mast installed on his land in return for £4,500.

But when the 75-year-old received a new contract in the post a year later, he noticed the annual site payment had dropped to £69.12.

Mr Smith said: "When they wrote to me in 2017 offering £4,500 for a mast in my garden I thought that was a fair price - it would supplement my old age pension.

Kidderminster Shuttle:

"They put a temporary mast in that took up a 12 metre square space bang in the middle of my back garden.

"The agreement was five pages long for the first year and I signed it and they sent me the money.

"When the second year came around, they sent me a 29-page agreement and buried in the middle it said they would be paying me £69 a year.

"I refused to sign the agreement and switched off the electricity to the mast - then I found out they were taking me to court."

A tribunal was set to take place on Thursday, September 12 at The Strand in London, but Mr Smith agreed to sign the day before after seeking legal advice.

He said: "I was told I might have to pay thousands of pounds in court costs if I lost. I don't have that sort of money. I'd have to sell my house.

"EE have agreed to pay me £300 a year but that's still a big decrease.

"I'm an old aged pensioner and I don't need this stress in my life.

"This mast is a horrendous-looking thing, with cables hanging off it and satellite dishes on the side. It's massive.

"I could do with downsizing at my age but no one is going to buy this house off me now.

"I would never have agreed to this if I knew what it would turn into."

A spokesman for EE said its offer was based on the new Electronic Communications Code, which came into effect in December 2017, making it easier for network operators to install and maintain apparatus such as phone masts on public and private land.

The spokesman said: "The mast on Mr Smith’s land was initially a temporary site and the rent for this was agreed at £4,500 for a 12 month term, from October 2017 to October 2018, which then expired.

Kidderminster Shuttle:

"A new permanent site was then negotiated with Mr Smith in line with the new Electronic Communications Code from the government that came into effect in December 2017.

"In line with the valuation principles under the new Code, which say that mobile/telecom equipment should be treated the same way as a utility like gas or water, we offered £300 per annum for the permanent site.

"Mr Smith was unhappy with the valuation under the new Code and negotiations remained unsuccessful. He declined the offer of site meetings to discuss the matter and turned down our offer to pay for him to receive professional advice.

"He has also removed power from the site on a number of occasions during this time, taking the mast offline.

"As such, this was then referred to the tribunal, as is standard procedure under the new Code to help landlords and operators resolve any disputes quickly and efficiently.

"However, Mr Smith has since agreed to the settlement offer and signed and returned the build agreement, before this reached the tribunal."