A.1 Section 2.9 on health issues indicates
the Government will continue to ensure that issues, such as health,
are properly reflected in the regulatory framework.
A.2 The Government appears to place confidence
in the existing regulatory framework but favours the adoption
of certain recommendations from the Stewart Group Report, several
of which bear directly upon the planning process.
A.3 Crown Castle has responded on the consultation
papers on planning and telecommunications issued in England and
Wales and will shortly respond on the papers relating to Scotland
and Northern Ireland. (Full copies of our responses can be made
available on request).
A.4 In its responses, Crown Castle has expressed
strong concern at the blurring of the vital principle of non-duplication
between separate spheres of regulation, ie planning and health
and safety. Crown Castle contends that the future development
and delivery of advanced telecommunications in the UK will continue
to be at risk if this principle is compromised. The need for clarity
is required because of confusion about the precautionary principle
as enshrined in the Maastrict Treaty (and reinterpreted in the
Stewart Group report), the weight to be given to public perceptions
of risk and the implications of the Human Rights Act 2000.
A.5 In planning cases we have encountered,
the thrust of the objection has been that the granting of planning
permission for telecommunications development would introduce
a health risk for nearby residents and thereby infringe human
rights. We have pointed out in each case that this argument is
flawed; the protection of public safety obtains not from the planning
system but from health and safety legislation that applies regardless.
A.6 Current scientific evidence indicates
overwhelmingly that the risks associated with telecommunications
installations are negligible, if emissions are within the guidelines.
Radio frequency assessments conducted by Crown Castle, and the
NRPB evidence to the Stewart Group published in its report NRPB-R321,
demonstrate that the degree of ICNIRP compliance is in every case
within the guidelines, by a safety factor of hundreds, if not
A.7 However, public debate, catalysed by
selective interpretation of Stewart, and conducted with scant
regard for factual scientific data, has created a climate of public
concern. The public is highly sensitised to health scares. It
has been easy for individuals and pressure groups to ignore the
subtlety of Stewart's recommendations, to abuse the precautionary
principle and to demand the effective curtailment of telecommunications
A.8 Overall, the upshot has been to encourage
certain planning authorities to believe that health and safety
issues constitute grounds to refuse planning permission as a matter
of law and policy.
A.9 In summary, the existing regulations
taken in conjunction with the confusion of the policy framework
are a recipe for chaos. The scale of the problem will become apparent
as nationwide 3G rollout generates thousands of applications.
This now represents the single biggest threat to the successful
roll out of the 3G networks and further development required for
digital television and radio broadcasting. In turn, the issue
threatens the attainment of the Government's core objective to
make the UK the best place in the world to do electronic business
by the year 2002.
A.10 The issue is not one of health and
safety, but of public confidence. Crown Castle's experience is
that public confidence has been undermined by the lack of visibility
of health and safety controls. In the public's view, the planning
system is the sole mechanism acting to prevent what many regard
as a great health risk being allowed near their houses, because
planning is the only visible control. Within that context, operator
information relating to health and safety is often mistrusted.
A.11 Crown Castle believes the Government
should act to restore public confidence by providing visibility
to health and safety controls whilst publicly maintaining the
principle of non-duplication in the planning process. To this
end, we would recommend the establishment of a new health and
safety certification body for telecommunications operators and
all communications infrastructure providers.
A.12 We suggest this process should operate
in similar fashion to ISO9000 Quality Assurance, requiring the
establishment and maintenance of approved procedures that would
be designed to ensure compliance with health and safety guidelines
relating to radio emissions. Certification would include sample
audits of existing sites. Following certification, internal and
external auditing should take place with measures for dealing
with any non-compliance, the ultimate sanction being removal of
A.13 Once certified, any planning applications
should be supported with a copy of the certificate to demonstrate
satisfactory compliance with health and safety guidelines.
A.14 Such an approach would have the added
benefit of avoiding the unnecessary duplication of effort required
in providing site-specific information in every case, which is
a time-consuming and unnecessary exercise in terms of actual health
A.15 A certification process could be established
without requiring significant additional funding through the use
of existing public agencies. The Health and Safety Executive would
be the logical certification body. An application for certification
could be subject to a fee to reflect the administration costs
involved. The system should reduce the volume of individual queries
raised by local authoritiesa key consideration in view
of the thousands of applications to be generated by 3G rollout
in the next few years.
A.16 The Radiocommunications Agency already
carries out random audits and that existing process could be subsumed
into the certification process.
A.17 Crown Castle hopes the Government will
explore this proposal and would welcome being included in a Working
Group, together with Mobile Telecommunications Advisory Group
(MTAG) and other interested parties, to explore its feasibility.
In summary, the key benefits are:
The Government would be seen to be
acting decisively on this issue of great public concern.
The potential for the existing problem
to become a major political issue would be defused.
Health and safety controls would
be given greater visibility to a public demanding greater reassurance.
Third party certification would create
trust and credible information on this topic.
The principle of non-duplication
between controls could be reinstated without criticism that the
Stewart Group recommendations are being ignored.
The idea is comparatively simple
and is easy and quick to introduce.
The proposal should not require significant
additional public resources, as it would utilise existing Government
agencies. The cost of any limited additional resources would be
insignificant compared to the costs of doing nothing.
The potential for the issue of health
and safety unnecessarily delaying the deployment of 3G networks
and their considerable benefits, with the consequential adverse
economic impact, would be minimised.
The Government's core objective to
make the UK the best place in the world to do business electronically
by the year 2002 would receive a vital boost.
6 March 2001