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Consult Early; Consult Often: Research with Planners

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Consult Early; Consult Often: Research with Planners Shows Support for Pre-Application Consultation on Mobile Phone Masts

5 January 2012

Pre-application consultation is a key factor in securing local community buy-in to development. That’s one of the findings of research carried out among local authority planning offices by Ipsos MORI for the Mobile Operators Association (MOA).

Providing site specific pre-application consultations and better suggestions for mast siting were cited by 31% of planners as the most important improvements to encourage further local authority engagement in telecoms planning issues. The research also revealed that 62% of planners felt that mobile phone operators made themselves available to meet and discuss their plans prior to submitting planning applications. As one planner said: “We can iron out issues at an early stage before the application arrives.”

John Cooke, Executive Director of the MOA said: “It’s encouraging that so many planning officers agree with us on the importance of pre-application consultation. The operators are committed to it, and it is one of the key parts of the operators’ code of best practice. An effective mobile telecommunications infrastructure is vital to the economy, and operators want to develop their networks in a way that takes account of local needs and sensitivities. The message seems to be that to get the right balance, we need to consult early, and consult often. ”

In its response to the draft National Planning Policy Framework, the MOA has stated its strong support for the policy’s encouragement of pre-application engagement. However the association has warned that while many authorities are happy to hold pre-applications with developers, a minority is unwilling to do so. Operators are also happy if authorities make reasonable charges for pre-application discussion, because they recognize the constraints on resources in planning departments. But the MOA believes that a few demand fees that can’t possibly be based on reasonable cost recovery or represent value for money, but seem to be being used as an extra revenue stream or local ‘stealth tax’.

The research also showed that two thirds of planners feel operators have made sufficient effort to share masts. The proportion of planners saying that has increased significantly in the last three years. That is probably explained by the fact that operators have developed new ways to share infrastructure, to cut costs, and to help reduce energy consumption and the overall environmental footprint of networks. In fact, around two thirds of all mobile phone base stations in use in the UK are located on existing buildings and structures, including buildings, TV and radio transmission towers and existing mobile phone masts.

John Cooke added: “Operators’ networks are planned nationally but built locally. An effective planning system is therefore vital in meeting the needs of the public for greater coverage and capacity. In turn, that’s vital for the delivery of sustainable economic development, and to social inclusion, and crucial to the success of the Government’s plans for digital connectivity.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The Mobile Operators Association (MOA) represents the four UK mobile network operators – Everything Everywhere (Orange & T-Mobile), Telefonica UK, Three UK, and Vodafone – on radio frequency (RF) health and safety, and related town planning issues associated with the use of mobile phone technology. It provides information on these issues to policy-makers, including elected representatives and officials at UK, national, and local level, journalists, residents’ groups, and the wider public.
  2. Technical note for Editors: 100 telephone interviews conducted by Ipsos MORI among senior local authority planners involved in mobile phone base station planning between 18th May and 3rd June 2011.  
  3. The planners research can be accessed on the MOA website: http://www.mobilemastinfo.com/2011/ipsos-mori-planning-officers-research-published.html 4.
  4. For more information please contact Christine Jude 0207 331 2029, 07736 110787 email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it