Growth and Infrastructure Bill

Memorandum submitted by Living Streets (GIB 40)

1) About Living Streets

We are the national charity that stands up for pedestrians. With our supporters we work to create safe, attractive and enjoyable streets, where people want to walk. We work with professionals and politicians to make sure every community can enjoy vibrant streets and public spaces. We started life in 1929 as the Pedestrians Association and have been the national voice for pedestrians throughout our history. In the early years, our campaigning led to the introduction of the driving test, pedestrian crossings and 30mph speed limits. Since then our ambition has grown. Today we influence decision makers nationally and locally, run successful projects to encourage people to walk and provide specialist consultancy services to help reduce congestion and carbon emissions, improve public health, and make sure every community can enjoy vibrant streets and public spaces.

2) Key Message:

Clause 7 of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill proposes amendments to the Electronic Communications Code which will result in telecommunications equipment such as broadband cabinets being placed on footways without consultation with local communities and without regard for its impact on vulnerable pedestrian groups.

3) Living Streets is concerned that the proposals as they currently stand will:

1. Set an unhealthy precedent where the dash for broadband cash overrides communities right to have a say about the quality of their local environment;

2. Degrade the quality of the walking environment in local communities;

3. Adversely affect the most vulnerable pedestrian groups;

4. Lead to unintended policy consequences such as a reduction in the number of people walking.

4) We call on the Government to clarify the its position, during Committee stage, concerning the removal of local approval requirements for the installation of broadband cabinets on footways.

5) Background

Clause 7 of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill is designed to facilitate the provision of communication infrastructure in order to fast track the roll out of superfast broadband. The Government announced on the 7th September 2012 a proposal that broadband street cabinets could be installed in any location other than a Site of Special Scientific Interest without the need for prior approval from the local council and without any conditions being placed upon the construction or design by local authorities except in exceptional circumstances. The intention is for Clause 7 to be used to enable the introduction of a temporary 5-year relaxation of planning requirements for cabinets and new poles everywhere except in Sites of Special Scientific Interest [1] .

6) Clause 7 facilitates the provision of communication infrastructure by amending the Communications Act 2003 which gives the Secretary of State power to make regulations on the application of the ‘electronic communications code’ to telecommunications network operators. The Electronic Communications Code enables certain communications network providers to install and maintain infrastructure on public or private land, either with or without the agreement of landowners and provides that certain forms of infrastructure and equipment can be installed or constructed without planning permission, through permitted development rights [2] . Section 109(1) of the Communications Act 2003 gives the Secretary of State power to make regulations restricting the application of the electronic communications code. Clause 7 (1) of the Bill adds "the need to promote economic growth" to the list of considerations that the Secretary of State must have regard to in creating these regulations. These include the need to ensure highways and traffic are not obstructed or interfered with by equipment.

7) The key issues:

8) Without planning control, communities have no say – these proposals remove the democratic right of local people to have a say over the location of broadband street cabinets in their local communities. Both DCLG and the LGA note that a third of people identify street and pavement repairs as the thing that ‘most needs improving’ in their area – more than identified crime or health [3] and nearly four in ten people are actively dissatisfied with pavement maintenance in their area. [4] . People notice and care about what happens outside their homes.

9) Permitting unbridled development will degrade the walking environment - Living Streets believes the proposal contained in Clause 7 regarding economic growth combined with the announcement by DCMS suggesting that the installation of broadband street cabinets will no longer require approval will lead to a significant degradation to walking infrastructure in local communities across the country. The proposals suggested by DCMS will lead to broadband cabinets being placed on footways without any regard for pedestrian access and will ultimately lead to a degraded walking environment if high quality reinstatements are not specified at the time of installation.

10) Streets are for multiple users - we are extremely concerned about the issue of obstruction on footways, for vulnerable pedestrian groups, by the uncontrolled installation of broadband street cabinets. Obstruction of the public highway can impact on the quality of life of users of the public highway including: people with prams, those with mobility issues such as older people, wheelchair users and those with visual impairment. Obstructions such as broadband street cabinets can significantly reduce the efficiency of street cleansing services leading to increased levels of litter on the street. Therefore, the proposals may have significant unintended policy consequences on other aspects of public policy including active travel, congestion, public health and local environmental quality.

11) Living Streets is not against the roll-out of high speed broadband but it needs to be planned in consultation with local communities and in line with broader Government policy regarding active travel and public health. A YouGov poll carried out for Living Streets in March 2012 showed that one third of British adults said they would walk more in their local area if streets were kept in better condition and 46% of 18-24 year olds and 51% of 25-34 year olds would walk more if the streets were safer and more attractive. Problems such as obstructions or cracked pavements can take away older people’s confidence and stop them from going out. Additionally. These are issues which are likely to increase in the absence of any democratic regulation of the installation and design of broadband street cabinets.

12) Our Calls: We call on the Government during Committee Stage of the Bill to:

1. Clarify, to the Committee, the its position concerning the installation of broadband cabinets on footways, in particular the DCMS statement of 7th September 2012; concerning the removal of the ability for local communities to have their say on the installation of broadband street cabinets in their street;

2. Explain, to the Committee, whether the proposed consideration "the need to promote economic growth" will outweigh those considerations already listed in Section 109(2) of the Communications Act 2009. Specifically, "the need to ensure highways and traffic are not obstructed or interfered with by equipment";

3. Reassure, the Committee, that it is not its objective, though this Bill, to reduce the quality of life of users for users of the public highway such as people with prams, those with mobility issues such as older people, wheelchair users and those with visual impairment by obstructing the public highway by the uncontrolled installation of broadband street cabinets in order to achieve economic growth.

November 2012


[1] Growth and Infrastructure Bill Impact Assessment- https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/14682/growth_and_infrastructure_bill_-_impact_assessment.pdf

[2] Growth and Infrastructure Bill - Commons Library Research Paper - http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/RP12-61

[3] Department of Communities and Local Government. 2009. World Class Places - http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/1229344.pdf

[4] GInsight / Populus. 2011. Are the storm clouds forming around the reputation of local government?

[4] (September 2011) - http://www.lgcomms.org.uk/asset/576/Storm per cent 20Clouds per cent 20Forming per cent 20National per cent 20polling per cent 20September per cent 202011.pdf

Prepared 27th November 2012