Government confirms reforms to planning laws to improve mobile connectivity

From: techUK
Published: Fri Mar 11 2022

The UK Government has published its response to a consultation on proposed changes to planning laws which aims to extending and improving mobile coverage across the country, particularly in rural areas.

Among the main actions towards this goal, the Government identified allowing operators to upgrade existing sites without prior approval, permitting new masts to be built up to five meters higher than they are currently allowed or the need for a new definition for small cell systems.

The Government intends to implement the changes - which are only applicable to England - via secondary legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows.

In a statement, the Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez said: We're changing the law to wipe out mobile not spots' and dial up the roll out of next-generation 5G. Phone users across the country will benefit - whether they are in a city, village or on the road - and tighter rules on the visual impact of new infrastructure will ensure our cherished countryside is protected.

Following a consultation that was launched last year, the Government recently confirmed which amendments it will make to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 act in order to ease deployment of mobile infrastructure.

The significant changes to note are:

Existing ground-based masts

  • Existing mobile masts to be strengthened without prior approval, so they can be upgraded for 5G and shared between mobile operators.
  • This would allow increases to the width of existing masts by up to either 50 per cent or two metres (whichever is greatest) and, in unprotected areas, allow increases in height up to a maximum of 25 metres (previously 20 metres)

New ground-based masts

  • New masts to be built up to five metres higher - meaning a maximum of 30 metres in unprotected areas and 25 metres in protected areas, subject to approval by the planning authority

Building-based masts

  • Building-based masts to be set up nearer to public roads subject to prior approval to improve mobile coverage for road users
  • Buildings to host smaller masts (up to 6 metres in height above building) in unprotected areas without prior approval to accelerate network upgrades and reduce need to build new masts;

Other changes:

  • Enabling cabinets containing radio equipment to be deployed alongside masts without prior approval to support new 5G networks
  • Conditions to ensure telecoms equipment does not block pavements and access to properties
  • To update the definition of small cell system' to make sure that this encompasses new and emerging types of small cell technology.

techUK is working with members, DCMS and DLUHC to clarify whether there is the likelihood that all small cell deployments in the UK would require planning permission, regarding power levels.

Protections to preserve scenery and minimise impact

Robust conditions and limits will also remain in place to make sure communities and stakeholders are properly consulted and the environment is protected, according to consultation response.

Alongside these proposed reforms, a new Code of Practice for Wireless Network Development in England has also been published today to provide operators and councils with guidance to ensure that the impact of mobile infrastructure is minimised and that appropriate engagement takes place with local communities.

Company: techUK

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