LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION RESPONSE
1. The LGA welcomes the opportunity to contribute
to this consultation, and to follow up the discussions already
held between the Department and the LGA.
2. There has been an overwhelming response
from our member authorities to this consultation, expressing an
almost unanimous view on the proposals in the consultation. This
response is based on comments received from local authorities.
Question 1: Do you think that greater public consultation
could be achieved within the current prior approval procedures,
or is it necessary to remove permitted development rights as recommended
by the Stewart Group? If the former, how could this be achieved?
Member authorities unanimously expressed the
view that permitted development rights should be removed as recommended
by the Stewart Group. The current prior approvals procedures do
not allow sufficient time for proper public consultation, nor
for negotiation and re-consultation following amendments, and
there is no mechanism for applying conditions to any approval.
This is not adequate for dealing with development as potentially
intrusive as 15 metre tall telecommunications masts, particularly
when this type of development causes a great deal of public concern.
In addition, prior approval procedures are expensive
to administer, requiring high priority and special procedures
to meet the tight deadlines. They are also more costly in staff
time than normal planning applications, and yet attract a much
lower application fee. Removal of permitted development rights
for this type of development would simplify the system, allow
proper public consultation, permit proper negotiation and discussion
between the local authority and the developer, and if necessary
re-consultation on any amendments to the proposed development.
Several member authorities expressed the view
that, while ideally permitted development rights should be removed
entirely, a compromise solution would be for telecommunications
mast development to require a full planning application, but that
the application could be deemed approved after eight weeks. This
would correspond with the Best Value performance indicator for
development control, would allow sufficient time for consultation,
and would give the operator some certainty.
Question 2: Do you agree that mobile phone operators
and other telecommunications code systems operators should be
treated in the same way by planning procedures?
The impact on the environment is caused by the
nature of the development, not by the type of operator. The identity
of the operator is irrelevant, and therefore the same procedures
should apply to all. This would also have the benefit of removing
any justification for accusations of giving mobile phone operators
an easier time than other code systems operators, or for that
matter, members of the public who are subject to full planning
Question 3: Do you think the construction and
installation of any ground based telecommunications mast should
be subject to an application for planning permission?
Under the current arrangements, telecommunications
masts under 15 metres in height do not require full planning permission.
However, this situation has led to a loss of public confidence
in the planning system, as other form of development below this
height are subject to full planning procedures. There is a perception
that telecommunications operators receive preferential treatment,
and are permitted to construct and install structures which can
have a significant impact on the environment without the constraints
to which other developers are subject.
Therefore, the LGA believes that the construction
and installation of any ground based telecommunications mast should
be subject to an application for planning permission.
Question 4: Do you think that the alteration or
replacement of a ground based mast already installed should be
granted except where the alteration or replacement would result
in the mast being higher than the original mast? If so, where
a mast would be higher than the original mast, should its alteration
or replacement be permitted subject to prior approval, or should
an application for planning permission be required?
Where replacement of a ground based mast is
on a like for like basis, we see no reason why it should not be
permitted development. However, where there is alteration to the
mast's height, or design, so that the visual impact is altered,
then we feel that this should be the subject of a planning application.
It is the impact on the environment which is the important element,
and while we appreciate that additional requirements for full
planning applications could cause delay to the operators, these
delays could, at least in part, be cancelled out by the ability
to hold greater and more thorough public consultation earlier
in the process.
We do not support the retention of the prior
approval procedures, as they are too complex, expensive, and time
consuming, and do not allow time for proper consultation and negotiation.
Question 5: Do you think that the construction
or installation of any telecommunications mast on a building or
other structure should be subject to an application for planning
The LGA feels that all installations of mobile
phone equipment should be subject to the same procedures, whether
ground based or situated on a building. Masts can have a significant
impact on amenity wherever they are situated, and particularly
given the public's concern over health issues, masts situated
on buildings or other structures should be subject to public consultation
and normal planning controls. The simplest way to achieve this
is by making these development subject to an application for planning
permission, thereby allowing sufficient time for consultation
to take place.
Question 6: Do you think that the alteration or
replacement of a mast on a building or other structure should
be permitted except where the alteration or replacement would
result in the mast being higher than the original mast? If so,
where a mast would be higher than the original mast, should its
alteration or replacement be permitted subject to prior approval,
or should an application for planning permission be required?
If the replacement of the mast is on a like
for like basis, then it could be permitted. However, any alteration
to the mast can have an impact on visual amenity, and should be
subject to a planning application. This would be the case whether
the mast was higher than the original mast, or whether its design
In order to mitigate the effects this change
could have on mast sharing, a compromise position could be for
these alterations to be "deemed approved" after eight
weeks, thereby giving the operator some certainty, and maintaining
the consistency of the eight week time period. The LGA would not
advocate the incorporation of the prior approval system in this
Question 7: Do you think that the construction,
installation, alteration or replacement of radio equipment housing
with a volume in excess of 2.5 m3, and of development ancillary
to radio equipment housing, when carried out in conjunction with
the construction, installation, alteration or replacement of a
mast, should be subject to the same planning requirements as that
Where a new mast is being constructed or installed,
the radio equipment housing associated with it will be an integral
part of the development and as such should be dealt with as part
of the same planning application. Where existing radio equipment
housing is being replaced or altered, planning permission should
only be required if the overall size of the housing will be greater
than the previous installation.
Question 8: Do you think that any other changes
would be necessary as a consequence to our planning regulations
in respect of masts?
The principal proposed change to the regulations
(ie making masts subject to normal planning procedures) has the
following beneficial effects:
It will simplify the system, making
it more comprehensible to the public and more equitable;
It allows local planning authorities
to negotiate and to apply conditions to any approvals;
It allows proper public involvement
through consultation and notification;
Applications will be recorded in
the normal planning register and will be revealed on searches;
The section of the Act (S.54a) which
gives primacy to the policies of the development plan will apply
to planning applications for masts.
If this straightforward approach is taken, no
further changes should be required. However, if the Government
chooses not to implement these recommendations, these issues will
need to be addressed in an enhanced system.
Question 9: Do you think that the installation,
alteration or replacement of a microcell which materially affects
the external appearance of the building should be treated in the
same way as an antenna in Part 24 of the GPDO?
Where the installation of a microcell materially
affects the appearance of a building, it should be subject to
normal planning controls so that it is treated the same as other
masts, antennae etc. Where there is no material effect, it could
be exempt from planning controls. Questions of quality of implementation
and design could be dealt with in, for example, codes of practice
or design guides.
Question 10: Do you want to propose any other
amendments to Part 24 of the GPDO?
Public telephone boxes are also subject to the
prior approvals system. There is a case for making them subject
to normal planning controls in conservation areas, but permitted
B. THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT PERSPECTIVE ON
THE DEVELOPMENT OF MOBILE TELECOMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE
A CLEAR MESSAGE
. . .
The LGA has maintained some key policy positions
on the development of mobile phone networks. Local Government
is not anti-mobile phone.
We would like the opportunity to discuss how
individual local authorities can work with the industry to accommodate
its needs in a strategic way and also satisfy the concerns of
local residents to minimise the potential impacts on the environment
of infrastructure development. This requires a partnership approach
and the building of confidence of local people in our ability
to deliver modern telecommunications in a way that is consistent
with our objectives to ensure the well-being of ours, and the
We would like a strategic approach to be based
on certain principles, of:
Minimising the need for mobile phone
masts and base stations.
Minimising the intrusion of mobile
phone infrastructure into the built environment.
Where consistent with good design
and landscape, sharing masts whenever possible, recognising that
shared masts are bulkier and more intrusive.
And, on the health issues,
In the absence of definitive conclusions
on the health impacts and line with the Stewart report, we would
like to see the adoption of a precautionary approach to mobile
phone mast/base station development in relation to schools and
locations where there are high concentrations of people present.
For our goals to be achieved, both local authorities
and the industry need to do certain things:
Local authorities need to:
Engage with operators at an early
stage to discuss their overall site requirements and display a
positive approach to accommodating them
Offer solutions and encourage better
design practice to fit with the Government's objectives to develop
a better quality urban and rural environment. Negotiation must
be used to improve developments and it is as much our responsibility,
as local planning authorities, as it is the industry's, to ensure
Educate the public about mobile phone
development and how it can be accommodated within our environment.
The industry needs to:
Engage with local authorities much
more openly about its strategic development planshow can
local authorities set about accommodating this type of development
positively if information is held back about how many developments
will be needed? How can a precautionary approach be achieved?
Adopt a positive approach to finding
design solutions to the development of infrastructure. There appears
to be, in some quarters of the industry and definite lack of enlightened
self-interest in this regard. The old saying goes"out
of sight, out of mind". Much more innovative solutions are
needed to hide unsightly developments, particularly in the countryside.
Where feasible, and in the current
climate of public concern, which is not likely to diminish, individual
companies, though in deadly competition, must work together more
closely to minimise the number of masts that are needed. Must
we really provide a network four or five times over? Greater mast
sharing and the use of complementary technology must be a key
An offerThe LGA is willing to sit down
with the Federation of the Electronics Industry to work out how
we can address some of these issues, and address concerns held
by the industry.
we can address some of these issues, and address
concerns held by the industry.
Planning permission or not? Where are we now and
where do we need to go?
We have the Stewart Report. He reported in April
2000 and was inconclusive. His report did recommend further research
and a precautionary approach to be adopted in the use of mobile
phones, particularly among children. The LGA supported its recommendations.
The Government has issued two consultation documents
regarding mobile telecommunications development:
Draft Revised Planning Policy Guidance
Note 8 on Telecommunications proposes to make health a material
consideration in the assessment of planning applications for mobile
telecommunications masts, but this may turn out to be fairly limited
to securing the declaration of applicants that they meet ICNIRP
standards. The LGA welcomed the introduction of health issues
into the guidance but remains concerned that methods for dealing
with it in individual planning applications are inadequate, given
The Government has also proposed
to amend part 24 of the General Permitted Development Order. This
currently gives rights to telecommunications operators to develop
masts and equipment under 15 metres in height without the need
for planning permission. The Government proposes to remove these
rights. The LGA strongly welcomed this proposal.
The LGA has taken a fairly strong line on the
need for greater local planning authority control over the development
of mobile telecommunications masts and base stations. Our views
have been with the grain of those held by local authorities across
the country, of residents and, happily we hope, the Government
Local authority planning control over this form
of development may help to ensure that locations chosen for development
are appropriate in terms of their environmental impact and sensitive
in terms of the proximity to residents, school-children and workers.
It will certainly encourage the kind of dialogue we need with
the industry but which has been patchy up till now.
Earlier comments address the environmental (design)
impacts, but there are some key health issues that remain, certainly
in the minds of the many local communities.
Overall the health issue remains a sticky one.
As it stands, it is not dealt with satisfactorily in the proposed
changes to the Planning Policy Guidance Note 8 on Telecommunications
development. The LGA has remained uneasy over the issue and the
source of our unease is two-fold.
1. THE SYSTEM
Assume for a moment that the planning guidance
is finalised in line with the draft and that changes to the General
Permitted Development Order are introduced as proposed. In this
case, all mobile phone development will require full planning
permission and local authorities will be required to consider
the health implications of mobile phone mast/base station development.
The key test of the health effects is likely to be whether the
ICNIRP guidelines on emissions have been met.
And here is a key problem for local government.
The system proposed would be based on self-certification. We are
not satisfied that this will allay public concerns or adequately
ensure that the standards required are met. The LGA has called
for a competent body to be able to determine whether or not the
standards required are met and then issue a certificate if they
Local authorities are not that body, but there
is a question about who should have this role. Candidates include
the National Radiological Protection Board and the Radio Communications
Agency. Some local authorities urged health authorities to be
included as a statutory consultee and this was reflected in our
The key ingredient in any system of audit and
checking of the standards achieved by mobile phone operators in
the development of their networks is independence.
2. THE EXTENT
There is a bigger point about the role of local
democracy. We are clear that, as with other contentious development
where the public perceives negative health implications (such
as waste incinerators for example), local planning authorities
will not be allowed to let emotive and strong public feeling outweigh
all other factors in mobile phone development.
The Government set out its (pre-revised guidance)
position in a letter to all local planning authorities on 29 June
2000. In this letter, the Minister for Housing and Planning stated
"It is our view that, if a proposed development
meets the ICNIRP guidelines (as recommended by Stewart on a precautionary
basis), it should not be necessary for a planning authority, in
processing an application, to consider the health effects further."
This could make life very difficult for local
authorities. It is unlikely that people will be satisfied with
an ICNIRP-certified proposed mast/base station (whoever issues
this) and yet local authorities will not be supported at planning
appeal if they refuse planning permission on the grounds of overwhelming
This is why we have urged that further research
is urgently undertaken to remove the doubts created by the Stewart
reports over the health impacts, one way or the other. We have
also urged a review of the whole situation in two/three years'
time. The Government, in responding to the Stewart Report accepted
The LGA does intend to take the following action:
Our chairman, Sir Jeremy Beecham,
has already written to the Government urging immediate publication
of the revised PPG8 and changes to the GPDO. We intend to keep
the pressure up.
We want to work with local authorities
and the Federation of the Electronics Industry to cement the principle
that the development of mobile phone networks must be done in
strategic consultation with local authorities and reflect a precautionary
approach along the lines you suggest.
We will issue advice to all local
authorities on how to take forward these matters with the industry
and local people.