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English Planning Policy and Practice - National Planning Policy in England

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National Planning Policy in England

National planning policy is issued by the relevant Government Department responsible for town and country planning, presently the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). The principal document encompassing national planning policy is the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) issued by DCLG in March 2012. That sets the context for the consideration of all development, including telecommunications proposals, in England.

The NPPF sets out the Government's policy on planning for telecommunications development - including radio masts and towers, antennas of all kinds, radio equipment housing, public call boxes, cabinets, poles and overhead wires.

The policy stresses that there is a presumption in favour of sustainable development (paragraph 14)

Among the core principles the NPPF identifies (at paragraph 17) that should underpin the planning system is a requirement for decision makers to "proactively drive and support sustainable economic development to deliver the homes, business and industrial units, infrastructure and thriving local places that the country needs". This includes (section 5 of the NPPF) "Supporting high quality communications infrastructure"

As is made clear

42. Advanced, high quality communications infrastructure is essential for sustainable economic growth. The development of high speed broadband technology and other communications networks also plays a vital role in enhancing the provision of local community facilities and services.

This also extends to plan making.

43. In preparing Local Plans, local planning authorities should support the expansion of electronic communications networks, including telecommunications and high speed broadband. They should aim to keep the numbers of radio and telecommunications masts and the sites for such installations to a minimum consistent with the efficient operation of the network. Existing masts, buildings and other structures should be used, unless the need for a new site has been justified. Where new sites are required, equipment should be sympathetically designed and camouflaged where appropriate".


The NNPF provides further policy direction:

44. Local planning authorities should not impose a ban on new telecommunications development in certain areas, impose blanket Article 4 directions over a wide area or a wide range of telecommunications development or insist on minimum distances between new telecommunications development and existing development. They should ensure that:

  • they have evidence to demonstrate that telecommunications infrastructure will not cause significant and irremediable interference with other electrical equipment, air traffic services or instrumentation operated in the national interest; and
  • they have considered the possibility of the construction of new buildings or other structures interfering with broadcast and telecommunications services.


45. Applications for telecommunications development (including for prior approval under Part 24 of the General Permitted Development Order) should be supported by the necessary evidence to justify the proposed development. This should include:

  • the outcome of consultations with organisations with an interest in the proposed development, in particular with the relevant body where a mast is to be installed near a school or college or within a statutory safeguarding zone surrounding an aerodrome or technical site; and
  • for an addition to an existing mast or base station, a statement that self-certifies that the cumulative exposure, when operational, will not exceed International Commission on non-ionising radiation protection guidelines; or
  • for a new mast or base station, evidence that the applicant has explored the possibility of erecting antennas on an existing building, mast or other structure and a statement that self-certifies that, when operational, International Commission guidelines will be met.

46. Local planning authorities must determine applications on planning grounds. They should not seek to prevent competition between different operators, question the need for the telecommunications system, or determine health safeguards if the proposal meets International Commission guidelines for public exposure.

 



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.