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English Planning Policy and Practice - Schools

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The Code of Best Practice utilises a "Traffic Light Model and Consultation Strategy" in order to guide appropriate community engagement in terms of the likely sensitivity of a telecommunications proposal in terms of environmental, planning and community considerations. One of those factors for particular consideration is where a mast is proposed to be installed on or near a school or college. Whilst the NPPF directs this consideration only to the use of the prior approval regime, the Code of Best Practice goes wider and states that it is important that telecommunications operators discuss the proposed development with the relevant body of the school or college concerned before submitting an application for planning permission or prior approval to the local planning authority.
The Code notes that this approach "was originally drawn up when mobile telephony was relatively new, when there had been much less research into its possible effects and when public concern about mobile phone masts was greater than it is now". It goes on "Nevertheless operators recognise that some parents can be concerned about the possible health effects of mobile phone masts, and therefore, as a matter of good practice, carry out a specific pre-application consultation exercise with schools and colleges where appropriate. This will give them the opportunity to feed in their comments and concerns and to have them considered by the operators at an early stage. However, it is important to reiterate that there is no evidence that supports any health-related concerns about masts that operate within international guidelines. Health and safety issues are dealt with under a separate regulatory regime".

The Code of Best Practice provides guidance on determining which schools and colleges should be consulted. There are no hard and fast rules for determining whether a base station is near a school or college for the purposes of pre-application consultation. The institutions concerned need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, in the light of local circumstances.
The Code of Best Practice provides guidance of factors that should be taken into consideration when developing a consultation plan for a site on or close to a school or college.

Code of Best Practice

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.