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Scottish Planning Policy and Practice

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National Planning Guidance in the form of Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) (February 2010) sets out the Scottish Government’s planning policy for radio telecommunications. Paragraphs 248-254 of the policy relate to Communications Infrastructure and confirm that “Advanced, high quality electronic communications infrastructure is an essential component of economic growth across Scotland.” This guidance supersedes and consolidates that previously contained in National Planning Policy Guideline NPPG19: Radio Telecommunications. It confirms that the Government’s objective is to ensure that everyone can enjoy the same degree of access to high quality electronic opportunities but this should be achieved in a way that minimises the environmental impact of communications infrastructure.

Scottish Planning Policy also confirms that the ICNIRP guidelines has been adopted as the precautionary approach by the UK Government and that the planning system should not be used to secure objectives more properly controlled under other legislation. As such, where an ICNIRP declaration is provided with an application it is not necessary for planning authorities to treat radiofrequency (RF) emissions as a material consideration.

Scottish Planning Policy requires that all components of the equipment are considered together and that a series of options should be considered to ensure the sensitive siting and design of base stations. Development plans and supplementary planning guidance should provide a consistent basis for decisions on communications infrastructure. The policy advises that further detailed siting and design guidance is contained in Planning Advice Note (PAN) 62: Radio Telecommunications.

Planning Advice Note (PAN) 62 provides detailed advice on the siting and design of telecommunications development. Generally the aim is to allay public concern by the sensitive siting and design of equipment to reduce contrast with its immediate setting or background and thereby reduce contrast between the equipment and people’s expectation of a particular scene. In order to achieve this, a series of options for siting and design should be considered; site sharing, mast sharing, siting on buildings/structures, concealing and disguising, using small scale equipment and new ground based masts.

The guidance is concerned primarily with:

  1. Further growth of existing mobile telephone systems (including second generation or 2G)
  2. The introduction of the third generation of mobile telecommunications (known as 3G)
  3. Fixed radio access telecommunication services

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.