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English Planning Policy and Practice - European Union Law

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European Union Law

There are a number of Directives relating to Environmental Assessment and Habitats protection which have an important bearing on many planning decisions but there are no European Union Directives or Regulations which specifically apply to telecommunications planning proposals.

It is sometimes suggested that Art 130r of the Maastricht Treaty means that the "precautionary principle" had some material bearing on the consideration of telecommunications proposal and that there was a "direct effect" of its provisions to impose a duty upon Government to act to obviate a possible (rather than actual) risk. This proposition was considered (not in the context of telecommunications but rather in the context of electromagnectic fields from electricity cables) in the case of R -v-v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry ex p Duddridge [1996] Env LR 325 (Court of Appeal).

There the Court of Appeal considered Article 130r of the Maastricht Treaty and dismissed an application for judicial review against the Secretary of State's decision not to take the action sought by the plaintiff. The Court was clear that Art 130r does not place any obligation upon any organ of a national government to adopt and apply the precautionary principle as defined under that Treaty when deciding to exercise its powers (in that case to make regulations under a specific statute) until such time as there had been a proposal by the European Commission after consultation with the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee followed by adoption by the Council (see the judgment of Sir Iain Glidewell at pages 331 - 334).

It may be noted that when this point has been raised at a number of planning inquiries relating to telecommunications mast development, independent planning inspectors have endorsed this approach. See the recent decisions, following public inquiries, at Watford (2001), Guildford (2002) and Brixham (2002).

Watford 2001 Appeal Decision (PDF 590KB)
Guildford 2002 Appeal Decision (PDF 1787KB)
Brixham 2002 Appeal Decision (PDF 876KB)



Ten Commitments

Central to the operators’ approach to network development is consultation with local communities, planning officers and other stakeholders on any proposed new developments. Pre-application consultation is included in the operators’ ‘Ten Commitments to Best Siting Practice’, which has existed since 2001 to help address concerns relating to the development of base stations, and which is now contained in planning guidance throughout the UK.

Sharing Sites

Mobile phone users in the UK increasingly want better coverage and greater capacity so they can access more services on their phones. While this means that new base stations will still be needed, network operators seek to share sites wherever possible. Site sharing helps reduce energy consumption and the overall environmental footprint of networks, as well as improving the quality of coverage.