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Mobile Phones and Telecommunications

Mobile Phones and Telecommunications

Phone masts – a cause for concern?

New proposals for mobile phone masts or base stations are invariably controversial - particularly if they are sited in residential areas. Behind the concern is usually a sense that the health risks associated with mobile phone technology have not been properly explained.

Local residents will inevitably look to their council to control the development of new sites, but in many ways councils' planning powers are limited. Most crucially of all, councils have been told by ministers that they should not refuse planning applications for masts or base stations on health grounds where these meet the ICNIRP guidelines.

Where are the masts?

The mobile phone companies tell us each year where they are looking for new masts. We also record where the council has granted permission in the past for masts and where they have been erected. This information is available from our Interactive Map.

The planning rules

Masts and telecommunications equipment do not always need planning permission from the council. Mobile phone masts generally fall into two categories, those which require full planning permission, and those which require 'prior approval'.

Prior approval

The prior approval procedure applies to:

  • The alteration or replacement of a mast which would be no taller than the existing
  • The alteration or replacement of a mast up to and including 20m in height above ground level
  • A public call box
  • Radio equipment housing with a volume of 2.5 cubic metre

Where a mast fits into one of the above categories, a mobile phone operator will submit a notification for 'prior approval'. The council then has 56 days to let them know whether they permit or refuse the approval, but the council may only consider the appropriateness of the location and appearance of any antenna or supporting apparatus, radio equipment housing or development ancillary to radio equipment housing constructed and the siting and appearance of a mast which has been altered or replace of the mast. We cannot object to the principle of a mast. These notifications will be publicised on our view applications online pages.

Full planning permission

Other development, for example a mast greater than 20m in height will need a full planning application. In considering applications the council will take a balanced approach including:

  • The benefit that mobile communications provide to the economy
  • Health factors although they will not be the main consideration where the proposal meets ICNIRP guidelines
  • The visual and environmental effect of any proposal on the surrounding area

Useful websites

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