A LAND agent has been accused of delaying faster broadband in Somerset by coaxing farmers to hold out for high payments for access to and use of their land.

Ian Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, used an intervention in the House of Commons to lay into Greenslade Taylor Hunt, which has a number of offices across the county.

He said installers are being blamed for the problem of Somerset being "a blackspot for broadband", but added: "One land agent has been pushing farmers not to sign up until they get a lot of money."

He went on to name Greenslade Taylor Hunt, adding that the company was "recently done for price fixing" - GTH was one of four Somerset estate agents fined a total of more than £370,000 last year after admitting illegal price fixing.

Mr Liddell-Grainger, whose comments carry Parliamentary privilege, based his view on an article in the County Gazette by GTH associate Philip Hodgkin.

In it he said code operators have been writing to landowners "seeking their signatures on consent forms" so they can install, maintain and repair network communication equipment on privately owned land.

Mr Hodgkin added there was "no mention of recompense to the landowner" and there was a threat of using compulsory powers through the Electronic Communications Code.

He said: "There should be a payment due to the landowner for agreeing a Wayleave, often paid annually but this does vary.

"Greenslade Taylor Hunt have been in communications with code operators seeking reasonable recompense on behalf of their clients who are entitled to compensation.

"If financial payment is not your priority, landowners can negotiate other variables, such as the route that the cable is laid or connections being made available to the property that it passes through.

"Landowners will also require sufficient reinstatement clauses and other site specific matters to be addressed as well as reasonable professional fees to be paid by the code operators.

"Whatever your priorities are, it is important that you know what you are signing up to and it can be invaluable to have an agent represent and negotiate your position to produce consistent terms for all affected landowners in the area.

"Greenslade Taylor Hunt recommend that landowners carefully consider any requests of this nature that appear through the letterbox and would urge them to seek professional advice – of which reasonable costs incurred should be reimbursed by the code operators."

We have approached GTH for a comment.