Council seeks greater planning powers for phone mast proposals

At a recent meeting of the Council, it was agreed unanimously to ask the Government for additional powers for Local Authorities like Broxbourne to regulate the installation of 5G telecommunication masts.

Currently, the Council has limited powers through the planning system to consider proposals involving electronic communications equipment, including new mobile phone masts.

The Government has a clear ambition for the United Kingdom to be well connected, and aims for the majority of the population to have access to 5G by 2027. To support this aim, specific ‘permitted development’ allowances exist as part of the planning system which enable electronic communications code operators (such as telecommunications companies) to install many types of apparatus without the need for formal planning permission from the local authority. Telecommunications masts up to 30 metres in height (25 metres in conservation areas) fall within permitted development.

Telecommunications companies often apply to the Council under a ‘prior approval’ condition attached to their permitted development allowances. However, there are limited considerations under which an application can be assessed by the Council.

Applications submitted by telecommunications companies to the Council for prior approval enable the Council to consider the matters of the siting and appearance of the proposed apparatus only. Other material planning considerations which might be relevant for other types of development proposal cannot be considered by the Council.

If the Council refuses an application based on siting or appearance, the case may be taken to appeal where the final decision will be made by an Inspector appointed by the Planning Inspectorate. If the Planning Inspector disagrees with the Council’s view, the appeal may be upheld. If the Inspector believes that the Council has acted unreasonably, costs may be awarded against the Council.  

The National Planning Policy Framework is clear that in considering application for telecommunications equipment authorities should not set health standards different from International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

Therefore, planning authorities must not refuse an application for a 5G mast on health grounds where ICNIRP guidelines are met. 

Broxbourne Council is calling for more powers for local planning authorities which would enable them to thoroughly consider such installations when it is thought that doing so would be in the best interests the local community.

Published: 17th November 2023