Memorandum submitted by Saleem Shamash
BSc (Hons) MRICS MRTPI, National Planning Manager, Crown Castle
1.1 I am Saleem Shamash and I am a Member
of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and a Member of
the Royal Town Planning Institute. Since August 2000 I have been
the National Planning Manager at Crown Castle International. Before
that I held senior positions in private practice. I have specialised
in planning and telecommunications since 1986 and believe I am
the longest established planning professional practising in this
specialist field. When in private practice, I advised Mercury
Communications Ltd, BT Cellnet, Orange and Vodafone, all telecommunications
code systems operators. In addition, I have advised Reuters and
INMARSAT on telecommunications installations required by them.
1.2 I have handled planning applications
and appeals throughout the UK sufficient in number to establish
at least a first generation network. Last year alone, I handled
13 planning appeals, 11 of which were allowed, two following a
1.3 I have seen how the legislation and
planning policy has evolved since privatisation took place in
the telecommunications sector and have advised operators about
these changing requirements.
1.4 Through professional experience, I am
thoroughly acquainted with the issues of particular concern to
this Committee. As a Chartered Surveyor, I have prepared my evidence
in accordance with the current Practice Statement and Guidance
NotesSurveyors Acting as Expert Witnesses, issued
by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. To assist the
Committee I should emphasise that I have sought to provide objective
views, and not an industry stance.
1.5 My evidence therefore gives my independent
expert opinion on the planning issues before the Committee and
includes or makes reference to all the facts and matters I consider
2. FINDING THE
2.1 Telecommunications development presents
a significant challenge in finding an appropriate balance between
environmental and operational considerations.
2.2 The UK wide consultations on telecommunications
mast development are ultimately about providing the legislative
and planning policy framework to strike that balance. Crown Castle
International has submitted comprehensive responses to all the
consultation papers and the Committee has seen the response submitted
in respect of the Department of Environment, Transport and the
Regions (DETR) consultation paper.
2.3 In the submission to the DETR which
I prepared, the Committee will see acknowledgement of the need
for change if widespread public concerns over the issues of visual
amenity, and health and safety, are to be addressed. However,
I am concerned that the proposals could have damaging consequences
without properly addressing the concerns which they seek to meet.
Hence, I have made alternative suggestions, seeking to deliver
appropriate change to a more effective end.
2.4 In the consideration given by this Committee
and the views it might express to the DETR, I would like to emphasise
some key factors:
Development of telecommunications
infrastructure is vital, in the wider public interest, in order
to achieve key economic objectives and provide essential social
infrastructure. For example, electronic business cannot function
without such infrastructure and if it is to be encouraged so must
the physical development of that infrastructure.
Development of telecommunications
infrastructure is key to the attainment of sustainable objectives,
such as reducing the need to travel. For example, homeworking
that is facilitated by modern telecommunications can help reduce
commuting by all forms of transport.
The public demand for that communications
infrastructure is massive and growing. There are already over
40 million subscribers to mobile phone services. Almost every
household has at least one television. Internet access and E-mail
is used by most sectors of business and growing numbers of households.
The decision to issue five new licences
for 3G mobile telecommunications services has already been taken.
It is the proper function of the planning system to help plan
and not hinder unnecessarily the development of these networks,
as with any other form of public infrastructure.
As there is no such thing as an invisible
telecommunications installation, that decision implied the UK
will have rapidly to absorb a degree of environmental impact,
associated with the development of those networks.
That impact is likely to be great.
At present I understand there are around 22,500 telecommunications
sites throughout the UK (including radio masts and other high
structures, many of which are shared). The first of these sites
was developed from about the end of the first quarter of the last
Initial operators estimates suggest
they require about 50,000 installations by the end of 2003. However,
the net increase in new radio masts should be less than 27,500
as some installations will be shared/or sited on existing high
structures. That said, the figure is still potentially high.
Beyond 2003 additional installations
will be necessary to meet customer demands and to make competition
driven improvements, to the benefit of the public. It is not possible
precisely to predict the number of sites that might ultimately
be required, but self evidently this will be reduced by greater
mast or site sharing.
The need to plan ahead is emphasised
by the fact that every original forecast on site numbers in the
early days of 2G proved to be an underestimate compared to what
2.5 I recognise that the potential scale
and pace of new mast development is likely to further alarm the
public and cause difficulties for planning authorities. However,
with the right legislative and policy framework, it should be
possible for Government to help the transition of the UK from
one communication era to the next and for the public to tolerate
the associated marginal impact on our environment. Without this
framework we will not obtain the full and wide benefits of the
communications revolution, which is only in its infancy and the
operators will not be able to meet their licence obligations.
2.6 The focus of any change to the legislative
and planning policy framework must therefore be targeted at managing
and minimising that inevitable impact, and addressing concerns
about health and safety. If the Government is to achieve its core
objective of making the UK the best place in the world to do electronic
business by 2002, it should resist calls unduly to hinder the
development of modern telecommunications. Many objectors fail
to appreciate the wider environmental and other benefits of modern
communications; demonstrate a poor understanding of the difficult
operating constraints of telecommunications; and ignore the existence
and industry wide adherence to strict health and safety controls.
They prefer instead the adoption of arbitrary standards that have
no sound basis in established science, and a wholly unrealistic
approach to risk.
2.7 The proper focus should be upon continued
greater emphasis on mast or site sharing to help confine environmental
impact and greater clarity in dealing with the health and safety.
3.1 Encouraging the shared use of infrastructure
is easy to say, but often difficult to implement. Such encouragement
is a long-standing feature of licence conditions and national
planning policy and is echoed at development plan level.
3.2 However, an expectation gap has arisen
in terms of what can be achieved and that will become greater
in the future. The planning system has generally pushed operators
to develop the minimum structures required to accommodate current
requirements. This has resulted in the development of large numbers
of slimline lattice and pole structures, often discreetly located
in otherwise sensitive locations. Local planning authorities and
the public often assume that other operators can share these structures
by simply attaching one or two extra antennas. In practice, the
consequences of site sharing or even accommodating further equipment
for the same operator, often means redevelopment for a larger
and higher structure.
3.3 Such intensification has in many cases
been regarded as unacceptable by local authorities, and that in
turn has led to unwelcome tension through an appeal, or alternatively
the development of yet another site nearby.
3.4 To date the planning system has failed,
in many cases, to enable the provision of infrastructure that
can accommodate future, as well as current needs. This is unfortunate,
and in stark contrast to the approach that is adopted in planning
for a new road or railway line, which has design capacity to take
account of future trends.
3.5 Thus, proper planning principles should
be followed, but with the system operating differently, if new
sites are to be confined to a level that will minimise public
outcry and protect our rural and urban environments from undue
visual impact. In particular, I believe the system ought to facilitate
the development of infrastructure capable of being shared by several
different operators to avoid the unnecessary proliferation of
new sites. Hence, in Crown Castle's response to the DETR, we have
suggested certain permitted development rights being linked to
3.6 I emphasise that I believe such an approach
would go further in minimising the number of sites, than simply
withdrawing permitted development rights. That is because, all
things being equal, an operator (now five 3G and two TETRA in
mobile communications alone) will require the same number of installations
regardless of the planning procedure. However, if the legislative
and policy framework were changed to actively facilitate site
sharing (with acceptance that this will mean fewer but some larger
installations), as distinct from simply voicing general encouragement,
that would translate into fewer sites. I hope the Committee is
able to support this approach.
4. DEALING WITH
4.1 The planning system is not competent
to deal with the issue of health and safety as such, and in any
event to try and do so would contravene the usual principle of
non-duplication between different areas of legislation.
4.2 Objections based upon health and safety
or related issues and the way in which planning authorities and
now some planning inspectors are dealing with those objections,
currently represent the biggest threat to the timely roll out
of the 3G networks.
4.3 To illustrate this, in any sample of
10 planning applications I handled five years ago, health and
safety was raised as an issue in less than once case. Three years
ago that had risen to about three cases. Now it is a major issue
in any case that does not involve a remote site. Now also and
unlike before, the issue is increasingly likely to be cited in
a reason for refusal, notwithstanding the report of the Stewart
Group and Government announcements since. Members are also proving
more likely to be swayed by public objection on this issue and
refuse planning permission in the face of an officer recommendation
4.4 Decisive action is therefore required
and I have set out in our response to the DETR a clearer policy
framework to be included in PPG8, that also covers related issues,
such as the perception of risk.
4.5 However, I appreciate that the public
at large and many objector groups and the scientists who support
them do not appreciate the distinction between planning control
and health and safety guidelines. In our recent response to the
White Paper (A new Future for Communications) 
I have therefore suggested a new certification process to give
greater visibility to health and safety controls and the relevant
extract is appended for the information of this Committee. I also
hope Government can adopt this suggestion.
5. SUMMARY AND
5.1 Modern telecommunications are essential
public infrastructure and are vital for the delivery of important
economic objectives including the Government's core objective
of making the UK the best place in the world to do electronic
business by the year 2002.
5.2 Modern telecommunications are also key
to the attainment of difficult sustainable objectives, such as
reducing the need to travel.
5.3 Public demand for, and the use of, modern
telecommunications is massive and growing. We are only at the
beginning of the communications revolution.
5.4 The further development of existing
telecommunications systems and the rollout of the five 3G networks
will require large numbers of new sites, many of them in populated
areas. As we know this, we should learn from the shortcomings
of the planning system to date and plan ahead to facilitate development
more effectively, whilst at the same time minimise environmental
impact as a whole.
5.5 That said some environmental impact
is inevitable and that is a feature common to all forms of infrastructure.
However, given the potential scale of the benefits, the environment
impact will be much less by comparison, than that associated with,
for example, roads and railways.
5.6 In developing this new public infrastructure,
steps are required to address the concerns held by the public
about potential visual impact and on health and safety.
5.7 Whilst changes to the permitted development
rights are necessary, the full extent of the changes proposed
by the DETR could be damaging in their consequences without addressing
the actual concerns.
5.8 As alternative and better ways exist
to focus the changes on particular concerns, they should be examined
in more detail and in preference to the wide-ranging changes proposed.
5.9 In order to minimise the visual impact
associated by a very large proliferation of new masts, consideration
should be given to amending the permitted development rights and
planning policy to actively facilitate mast or site sharing. This
would mean acceptance that cumulatively it would be better to
have fewer larger installations.
5.10 The issue of health and safety now
dominates public concerns and the decision-making process. There
is therefore a requirement for immediate and decisive action,
by clarifying and strengthening the guidance in PPG 8 and introducing
a new certification process. Such action would benefit the industry,
the public and all decision-makers.
5.11 If the Government substantially withdraws
permitted development rights, fails actively to encourage shared
infrastructure and leaves the issue of health and safety unchecked
the consequences will be damaging to our economy. Indeed, we would
have the worst of all worlds, with delay in rolling out the 3G
networks with deferred or lost economic benefits, failure to achieve
sustainable objectives which should deliver environmental and
other improvements, and an unduly worried and hostile public.
3 Not printed. Back