The issue of installing telecom masts is a contentious one. For some people, telephone masts can be unpleasant to look at, for others, they can be a health risk. For others (including the government) they are a necessity as they allow better coverage for mobile phones, something that all citizens are deemed to be entitled to.
In the UK, the responsibility of planning policy when it comes to telecom masts is that of the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government (DCLG).
Mobile phone masts and the planning system
As the government looks to ensure good mobile phone connectivity across the UK whilst trying to avoid upsetting local residents, they are looking to regulate the installation of phone masts better. Laws and guidelines have changed in the past few years as mobile phone use has become more prolific.
When there is a ground-based mast with a height of over 15m, it now requires planning permission to be applied for. This does not mean, however, that all types of mobile phone mast need to have planning permission before they are installed.
Small telecom developments which are deemed to not have a great impact on the local environment do not require planning permission. Masts are not considered to be a small development, meaning that they do not fall into this category.
In these small development cases, the local planning authority should be notified of the intended development, and they are then given 14 days to comment. These comments, however, do not have to be taken on board by the developers if they don’t wish to.
Development requiring ‘prior approval’
For masts that are smaller than a 15m mast, ‘prior approval’ is normally required. They are still an allowed development, but an application for the development must be submitted to the local planning authority.
When the application is submitted, the local planning authority must approve it within 56 days, and if there is no response during this time, the development can be deemed as being automatically authorised.
Development requiring planning permission
When there are telecom masts that are on a larger scale (usually over 15m), they can require planning permission. In this case, normal planning rules apply, and a number of different factors are considered.
These can include masts that are being planned in several more ‘sensitive’ locations, such as:
- Those planned in conservation areas such as the Broads, areas of outstanding beauty, and National Parks
- Those required on or near to listed buildings
- Those required on or near ancient monuments
- Those required on or near schools
Planning applications are also assessed with regard to a Local and Neighbourhood plan.
Planning laws stipulate that planning application decisions must be made along with the guidelines that are in the Development Plan unless there are reasons not to.
How landlords can raise grievances for this process
Laws have changed recently with regard to the installing of telecommunication masts, given the government’s acknowledgement of their necessity around the country. They are now more likely to come down on the side of the developer when it comes to granting planning permission for the development of mobile phone masts.
Landlords can be concerned about human or animal welfare and the value of their property if they are in close proximity to a telecom mast. If you have a legitimate concern over the installation of a telecom mast, the first step should be to write a letter to the local planning authority outlining the reasons why you are unhappy with this. This letter should reference the planning guidelines, not be too emotive, and be as business-like as possible.
It can also be useful to gain the support from as many neighbours as possible, asking them to also oppose the development – they can use the same letter that you have written as long as they sign it themselves to register their disapproval. The support of a local councillor can also be useful for your case.
If a planning application for a telecom mast has not been approved, the developer has a right to appeal the decision. If, however, the planning application is approved, those who objected to it cannot appeal.
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Last reviewed on 11/07/23 by Maariyah Yacub who is a Solicitor