There are 3 types of application or notification for telecommunications installations.
These are for minor developments such as adding antennae to existing rooftop installations or changing equipment on existing sites and the Local Planning Authority is notified under The Electronic Communications Code (Conditions and Restrictions) Regulations 2003. Operators have to give us 28 days notice of their intention to install equipment, and allow our comment. We have no control over this type of development.
The short time scales do not allow for public involvement.
Applications for notification of prior approval under Permitted Development Rights
These types of development include new rooftop installations and masts under 15m in height. Notifications have to be determined by us within 56 days of receipt. The operator has the right to install the apparatus if we do not respond in time.
We can consider the siting and appearance of the installation but not the principle of the development or any related issues as this has already been agreed by legislation.
We will display a site notice for a period of 21 days.
Applications for full planning permission
These applications are dealt with in the same way as other planning applications and all material considerations can be considered. They are generally for masts over 15m in height, and larger installations such as large equipment cabinets. Siting of equipment within conservation areas or on listed buildings will also need planning permission or listed building consent.
Government guidance on telecommunications changes over time. The latest information can be found in the National Planning Policy Framework, section 10.
Permitted Development Rights for Masts
Permitted development rights for masts have changed. On 4 April 2022, Part 16 of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development)(England)(Amendment) Order 2022 was amended. A summary of the main changes are listed below.
Existing ground-based masts
- Existing mast widths can now be increased under permitted development and without prior approval. Specifically, an existing mast of up to 1m in width may now be increased in width by two-thirds of the existing masts width. For existing masts that are more than 1m in width, increases of one-half or two metres (whichever is greatest) are permitted without prior approval. Greater increases beyond these limits would be subject to prior approval. Greater increases (up to 30 metres) would be subject to prior approval.
- Heights of existing masts outside article 2(3) land, for example, conservation areas, may now be increased under permitted development to a height of 25 metres without the need for prior approval.
- Heights of existing masts in article 2(3) land, for example, conservation areas, may now be increased under permitted development to a height of 25 metres but will require prior approval.
- New planning conditions will require Code Operators minimise the visual impact of infrastructure, especially in conservation areas.
- Building-based masts
- Building-based masts may now be positioned closer to highways (within 20m of the highway) outside conservation areas an where the mast is less than 15m in height.
- Smaller masts (up to 6 metres in height above the tallest part of the building) may be installed on buildings under permitted development and without the need for prior approval.
- These changes will only apply on unprotected land. Furthermore, the existing conditions which limit the height of masts, and require visual impacts to be minimised on buildings, will continue to apply.
New ground-based masts
- New ground-based masts will be permitted up to 25 metres in height in conservation areas or land on a highway, and up to 30 metres on unprotected land (outside conservation areas). Both however will still be subject to prior approval of the local planning authority to assess the proposed siting and appearance of the mast.
- Masts that exceed these heights will require full planning permission.
- Radio Housing Equipment
- Radio equipment housing in conservation areas (article 2(3) land) up to 2.5 cubic metres will be permitted development and will not require prior approval.
- Radio equipment housing greater than 2.5 cubic metres will be permitted development but will require prior approval.
- Volume limits and the requirement for prior approval (except within an SSSI) are removed for radio equipment housing within a “permitted compound”.
- Other changes
- Both the developer and the Local Planning Authority will be required to notify and consult (respectively) the Civil Aviation Authority or the Secretary of State for Defence in the case of a mast within a “civil safeguarding area” or a “defence safeguarding area” (respectively).
- Amendments and introduction of several conditions relating to the visual impact and siting of the development (including its impact on the accessibility of the footway and premises).
- Public Health
- Planning applications should also be accompanied by a signed declaration that the equipment and installation has been designed to be in full compliance with the requirements of the radio frequency (RF) public exposure guidelines of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).
All applications must also be accompanied by a declaration that the proposal, when operational, will meet the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection).
The Government has advised in their document ‘Consultation Outcome: Changes to permitted development rights for electronic communications infrastructure: Government response to the technical consultation’ that,
‘The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA, formerly Public Health England), the government’s independent advisers on matters of public health, advise that so long as exposures are within the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines they do not pose a threat to human health.’
The National Planning Policy Framework states at paragraph 118, ‘Local planning authorities must determine applications on planning grounds only. They should not seek to prevent competition between different operators, question the need for an electronic communications system, or set health safeguards different from the International Commission guidelines for public exposure.’