A farmer has lost a legal battle over a mast on his land that provides BBC television coverage to thousands of homes.

Jon McCosh is at the centre of a dispute with the operators of the transmitter, whom he accuses of using “bullying” tactics to force him to accept low rental payments.

The mast is sited at Mr McCosh’s family farm near Biggar, Lanarkshire, and has been described as “telecommunications gold dust” because it provides a television signal to more than 2,500 homes in a blackspot area.

It is operated by telecoms giant Arqiva, which has a long-term contract to provide BBC services to homes in Lanarkshire.

Arqiva went to court to secure an order preventing Mr McCosh from removing the firm from the site and giving it exclusive rights to it following a dispute over payments.

The livestock and dairy farmer challenged the decision but the Sheriff Appeal Court in Edinburgh has now found in Arqiva’s favour.

The court ruled the company, which shares the mast with mobile phone and internet providers, should have control over the land because of its strategic importance.

Mr McCosh, 42, told of his disappointment at the ruling and said the row was hampering his attempts to set up a community broadband network in the area. 

He said: “We feel Arqiva is abusing the compulsory powers it has been granted, claiming it is providing TV and radio service to the community when, in reality, it is hiding behind its business model. It is utilising its corporate size and financial strength to bully site providers. The situation here is a microcosm of the entire industry.

“Due to the appalling bandwidth of the current rural broadband provision in the area we wish to assist the local community in the creation of a community microwave broadband network.”

The dispute began in 2015 when negotiations over a new lease at the site between Mr McCosh and Arqiva stalled. Notices to quit the land were served on Arqiva and the companies sharing the mast in October that year.

The telecoms firm then took legal action to give it control over the land where the mast sits. 

The court heard Mr McCosh accepts there has to be a mast on the site to prevent homes being left with no TV signal or internet coverage, but he is unhappy at the lease terms.

In his ruling on the case, Sheriff Peter Braid said: “The respondent is bound to provide BBC services to households in Lanarkshire until 2034. The site is telecommunications gold-dust, since without the mast on it, a significant number of households in Lanarkshire, which are otherwise situated within a telecommunications blackspot, would be unable to receive any television signal.

“The respondent not only has certain rights, but certain obligations, as a code operator. In particular, it has the right (and obligation) to share its equipment, including the mast. It would make no sense for the appellant as owner to control who could or could not attach equipment to the mast, or, indeed, whether there was still space on the mast for that to be done.”

“It is also entirely appropriate, given the importance of the mast strategically, that the respondent as occupier should be able to control who does or does not gain access to the site, and on what terms.

“Accordingly, it seems to us that many of the proposed terms of the lease are unexceptional, and are necessary to enable the respondent to exercise its code rights.

Mr McCosh is now considering whether to take further legal action following the ruling.

Mark Bartlett, Arqiva’s director of estates and infrastructure, said: “Arqiva is pleased with the terms of the judgment.”

“We consider the judgment to be reflective of government policy in the important area of advancing the UK’s digital communications capability.”