Published: Thursday, 24th March 2016
Ministers have confirmed plans to provide greater flexibility over the deployment of mobile phone infrastructure by modifying the existing planning regime.
This follows a consultation exercise carried out last year.
In a written parliamentary statement Planning Minister Brandon Lewis insisted the changes “were vital for our continued economic prosperity and social inclusion for all”.
He explained that where a site was already used for telecommunications infrastructure, permitted development rights would be extended to allow taller ground-based masts to be built.
“The threshold for new ground-based masts will increase from 15 metres to 25 metres in non-protected areas and a new permitted development right allowing new masts of up to 20 metres will be introduced in protected areas. “
He said that in order to ensure that there was “appropriate community engagement” a prior approval system would apply where a new mast was being built.
He went on to say that operators would also be able to increase the height of existing masts to 20 metres in both non-protected and protected areas without a prior approval; between 20 metres and 25 metres in non-protected areas with a prior approval.
Lewis also stated that operators would have a new automatic right to upgrade the infrastructure on their masts in protected areas to align with existing rights in non-protected areas. However, there will be a height restriction of 20 metres on highways and in residential areas.
He told MPs that the administration would lift restrictions on the number of antennae allowed on structures above 30 metres, while removing the prior approval requirement for individual antenna greater than six metres in height in non-protected areas and for two small cell antenna on residential premises in both non-protected and protected areas “as the visual impact is limited.”
Lewis promised the Commons that the Government would work with the industry and interested parties to strengthen the sector-owned code of practice to ensure best practice was always applied “when it comes to the siting and design of mobile infrastructure.”
The minister said the planning changes will come into effect from summer 2016 and would apply to England only.