This page details the legal constraints we must operate in which may help to explain how and why decisions about phone masts and apparatus are taken.
Telecommunications development falls into one of three categories:
Masts over 15 metres in height, and any masts and antennae in the Peak District National Park or Conservation Areas, require planning permission.
The Government has given licensed telecommunications operators permitted development rights to carry out certain types of smaller scale telecommunications development. For example, masts up to 15 metres in height are subject to an application for prior approval of the siting and appearance proposed. Prior approval applications have to be determined within 56 days or they are automatically allowed. We consult local people on all such applications.
There is no planning control over the smallest scale telecom development. This can range from the installation of additional antennas on an existing radio mast, to the development of a base station on a building, including equipment cabinets less than 2.5 cubic metres in volume and a set of antennas. We are usually notified of these works and do make comments. Typically, however, we are only given 14 days to comment and the operators do not have to take these comments on board.
What we must consider:
We can only take decisions in the public interest: we cannot take into account private interests, such as claims that a development will devalue, or spoil a view, from a property. The Government advises that: "A modern communications system brings massive benefits to people and businesses alike." Sharing of masts and using high buildings is encouraged.
We must also protect the amenities of an area, including those of individual occupiers. Important considerations include whether or not proposed mobile phone developments are unsightly or over-dominate nearby housing. Protecting high quality or sensitive areas, such as the Green Belt or Listed Buildings, is also important.
Health risks, and even the fear of health risks, are proper planning considerations. But the Government's latest advice on Telecommunications, Revised Planning Policy Guidance Note 8 (PPG8, 22 August 2001), states:
"However, it is the Government's firm view that the planning system is not the place for determining health safeguards. It remains central Government's responsibility to decide what measures are necessary to protect public health. In the Government's view, if a proposed development meets the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection) guidelines for public exposure it should not be necessary for a local planning authority, in processing an application for planning permission or prior approval, to consider further the health aspects and concerns about them."
Therefore, where mobile phone mast developments meet the ICNIRP guidelines, the Council has no sustainable health reason to refuse planning permission. Unreasonable refusal decisions can be overturned on appeal.
The Government has given telecommunications operators' legal rights to use public highway land for telecommunications development. On other Council land, we can decide, as landowner, whether or not to allow telecommunications development.
We have decided to consider whether to allow telecommunications development on Council land, where it may be better for local people and the environment than alternative locations which we do not own. This is especially important if the alternatives include undesirable permitted development, over which we would have no control. Decisions to allow development on Council land will be considered on a site-by-site basis, and will involve consultation locally.