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Telecommunication mast applications

Telecommunications code operators have permitted development rights under Part 16 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015. Permitted development is a form of nationally granted planning permission.

Telecommunications code operators have certain permitted development rights in accordance with their licences. Telecommunications development generally falls into three categories:

  1. Ones which requires planning permission
  2. Ones which requires the prior approval of the council
  3. Ones which are permitted development

Details of each of these are outlined below:

Development that requires full planning permission

Development that does not comply with the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) such as; masts over 25m in height on unprotected land or over 20m in height on article 2(3) land (land within a conservation area or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), antenna and dishes over a certain size or number, require full planning permission.

Development that requires prior approval

Where a communications code operator considers its development complies with the restrictions and limitations outlined under Part 16 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order and does not require planning permission, it is required to notify the council of its proposals and submit a notification for prior approval.

The council cannot object to the principle of erecting the telecommunications structure, but has 56 days to comment on the siting and appearance only. A notification for prior approval to the Local Authority is therefore not an assessment of whether the proposed development complies with permitted development but is an assessment of the siting and appearance of the development.

However, any outcome of prior approval would therefore not be a determination as to whether the development complies with Part 16.

The council has a strict deadline of 56 days to determine these applications. If the council has not notified the applicant of the decision by day 56 and an extension of time has not been agreed between the applicant and the council, the applicant is entitled to carry out the works as submitted but only if the works are deemed to be permitted development. The council is required to consult on the application by placing a site notice in at least one place on or near the land to which the application relates for no less than 21 days or by notifying any adjoining owner or occupiers and by local advertisement.

The prior approval procedure allows the council to approve or refuse details of the siting and appearance of the installation only. The 'siting' and 'appearance' of the proposal are the only factors that can be considered under an application for prior approval. No other matters can be considered.

The council will set out its views on the siting and appearance in a Case Officer Report as well as decision notice and this will be available on the council’s website.

The council cannot take health considerations into account when determining mast proposals. All proposals for telecommunications development should be submitted with an International  Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) Certificate. This certificate confirms that the mast meets the guidelines for public exposure. Beyond this, the health effects in relation to the development or concerns about them, cannot be considered further by the council.

Permitted Development

Most minor forms of installation are permitted development and do not need planning permission. This includes development such as; the installation of additional antenna on existing masts, equipment cabinets of less than 2.5 cubic metres and all broadband related development and cabinets.

The developer can notify the Authority in writing of their intention to install telecommunications apparatus. Development in this category is permitted by law, and does not require an application to, consultation with, or determination by the Authority. It is the developer’s responsibility, not the Local Authority, to notify property owners of any works.

Further information

For more information on all these matters the government have produced a code of practice for telecommunications operators.

Challenging a decision

Once the council has issued a planning decision it can only be challenged at the High Court and only in certain circumstances. Anyone may bring a challenge to a council planning decision, however if considering doing so you should seek your own legal advice as the council cannot provide assistance or advice further on this matter.

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