Select Committee on Trade and Industry Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the National Grid Group plc


  1.  National Grid owns and operates the high voltage electricity transmission network in England and Wales comprising the 400 kilovolt and 275 kilovolt transmission system. Our network includes some 7,000 route kilometres of overhead lines supported mainly by 22,000 steel lattice transmission towers, 600 kilometres of underground cable and more than 280 substations.

  2.  National Grid encourages the use of our existing towers by telecommunications operators, and we have contracts in place with a number of operators to site their telecoms equipment. On existing cellular telephony, there are almost 200 installations to date, with enquiries being processed for a further 900. In addition, we anticipate that this number will increase considerably, particularly as those operators who have acquired third generation licences will need to identify a significant number of additional non-intrusive sites to create their new networks. A separate subsidiary "GridCom Ltd", is taking forward our UK telecoms activity.

  3.  The high voltage transmission network offers licensed telecommunications operators a valuable opportunity for siting their antennae and dishes. Significant amenity benefits arise from siting telecommunications infrastructure on transmission towers because of the limited visual impact, and also from avoiding the intrusive proliferation of new telecommunications masts on the landscape. With some 22,000 transmission towers in England and Wales, operators can plan their networks on a district-wide or even national basis.[1]


  4.  National Grid supports the emphasis being placed by DETR Planning Policy Guidance Note 8 (PPG8)—Telecommunications, on mast sharing through the use of existing structures. The siting of telecommunications equipment on transmission towers has a negligible visual impact. Transmission towers typically range from around 30 to 70 metres in height and the telecoms equipment is mostly installed at a height of between 20 to 40 metres. The enclosed photographs[2] show that the telecommunications equipment is to a large extent visually "lost" within the structure of the tower.

  5.  Additionally, provided that tower security is maintained, siting of the equipment cabin near the tower footings, minimises their visual impact.

  6.  The current review of DETR's Planning Policy Guidance Note 8 (PPG8) continues to encourage mast sharing and installation of telecommunications infrastructure on existing structures, and we agree that this offers significant community gain.

  7.  However, we question the proposal in the DETR's Telecommunications Mast Development Consultation Paper, to require full planning controls for all telecoms masts, including where telecoms equipment will be sited on existing structures. We would urge continued use of permitted development under GPDO (part 24 of the Town and Country Planning [General Permitted Development] Order 1995), to actively encourage a presumption towards mast sharing and the use of existing structures. If however, there is a wish to continue with some sort of "prior approval" process for certain types of permitted development, we would suggest that any such permissions for mast sharing, should be approved unless there are exceptional circumstances.

  8.  It is worth noting that high voltage overhead lines and the siting of transmission towers are subject to their own rigorous consent process. This includes environmental impact assessments and extensive consultation with statutory, non-statutory and local amenity organisations and communities. The overhead line consent process has already addressed visual amenity with regard to siting specific towers, and, as such, the visual impact of the addition of much smaller telecommunications equipment to this type of structure is therefore extremely limited.

March 2001

1   This evidence does not touch on issues relating to Distribution networks. Back

2   Not printed. Back

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