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English Planning Policy and Practice - Types of Application

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Types of Application

Types of Application

The planning legislation [hyperlink to section 2 of England website] provides that planning permission is required for the development of land. This may be obtained in two main ways, either by reason of it being "permitted development" pursuant to a development order issued by Government or by applying to the local planning authority for permission. For the purposes of this guide the provisions relating to the grant of development consents for national infrastructure projects under the Planning Act 2008 are ignored as they are not directed to telecommunications development.

1) Permitted development

Most mobile phone base station developments require planning permission. However, some forms of development are permitted under Part 24 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 ("the GPDO") as amended by the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 2001 and the Communications Act 2003 (Consequential Amendments) Order 2003.

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 - HMSO website

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 2001 - HMSO website

The Communications Act 2003 (Consequential Amendments) Order 2003

The consequence of this is that an application for planning permission may not be required, though, in many circumstances the electronic communications operator must still make an application for 'prior approval' to the local planning authority. One example is a ground-based mast less than 15 metres in height with cabins less than 90 cubic metres in volume.

Where only a prior approval application is required this means that the principle of the development has been approved and the local planning authority has 56 days to consider only the siting and appearance of the proposed development. If the local planning authority fails to give written notice of its decision to the applicant within 56 days of receipt of an application then permission is deemed to have been given.

Some smaller installations permitted under the GPDO do not require an application for prior approval. These developments are small in scale, such as antennas on buildings that do not exceed the height of the building by 4 metres or cabins that are less than 2.5 cubic metres in volume. In line with the Code of Best Practice, mobile operators will notify the local planning authority of these developments.

Mobile phone network development: Code of Best Practice - Communities and Local Government site

2) Application for Planning Permission

Larger installations require an application for full planning permission. These will be determined in accordance with the development plan save where material considerations indicate otherwise. Local planning authorities must take into account the technical constraints on the location of the proposed development that may affect the operation or effectiveness of the equipment. This commitment is reflected in the Code of Practice on Mobile Network Development in England

The decision on an application for planning permission or prior approval will be made by the LPA in accordance with the Development Plan and Government policy.

Material considerations that may be taken into account can include the need for the proposed development as part of the national network, the impact of any installation on highway safety or the protection of trees. However, the impact of such development on property values is not a material planning consideration. As paragraph 29 of "The Planning System: General Principles" makes clear the planning system does not exist to, as such, protect the private interests of one person against the activities of another. The basic question is not whether owners and occupiers of neighbouring properties would experience financial or other loss from a particular development, but whether the proposal would unacceptably affect amenities and the existing use of land and buildings which ought to be protected in the public interest.

The Planning System: General Principles - Communities and Local Government website

Detailed information on Material Considerations


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.