Planning Portal

Sam Foster Calls For Comments On Telecommunications

Published on Fri, 10 Nov 2000
The Minister of the Environment, Mr Sam Foster MLA, today called for comments on telecommunications masts and associated equipment.
He launched a paper seeking views on possible changes to planning legislation including a new draft Planning Policy Statement.
Mr Foster said: "During the summer, local Ministers announced the action they intended to take following consideration of the report of the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones. On the subject of planning, I said that I was aware of public concern about mobile phone masts and I indicated that I was minded to introduce a requirement for full planning permission for all new mobile phone masts. But I said I would bring forward a consultation paper on the matter.
"Today I am issuing a consultation paper seeking views on possible changes to the control of development by licensed telecommunications operators under the Planning (General Development) Order (Northern Ireland) 1993 (as amended).
"This paper includes a new draft Planning Policy Statement ( PPS 10) on telecommunications development also.
"I shall introduce any revised procedures and guidance as soon as practicable after the outcome of the consultation is known. In the meantime, the DOE Planning Service will continue to deal with planning applications for telecommunications on the basis of the current legislative arrangements and policy guidance."
The consultation forms part of the DOE response to the report of the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (The Stewart Report).
The closing date for responses is 15 January 2001, and submissions should be sent to The Planning Service, Department of the Environment, Clarence Court, 10 -18 Adelaide Street, Belfast BT2 8GB.

Notes to Editors

Telecommunications operators licensed by the Department of Trade and Industry under the Telecommunications Act 1984 currently enjoy permitted development rights under Part 17 of Schedule 1 to the Planning (General Development) Order (Northern Ireland)1993 (GDO) (SR1993 No 278) as amended by the Planning (General Development) (Amendment) Orders (Northern Ireland) 1998 and 2000.(SR 1998No.222 and 2000 No.113). These rights allow them to install specified telecommunications apparatus without the need to make a planning application to the Department. Certain development, such as the installation of masts of up to 15 metres in height, is, however, subject to a "prior approval procedure", under which the Department has the opportunity to say whether it wish to approve details of the siting and appearance of the installation.
Amendments were made to the GDO in May 2000. This changed the 28-day prior approval procedure to 42 days in respect of ground - based telecommunications masts. This change was designed to give the Department a longer period during which to carry out public consultation on the siting and appearance of the proposed mast.
Last year the Government asked the NRPB to set up an Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (IEGMP). This Group, under the Chairmanship of Sir William Stewart FRS FRSE considered concerns about health effects from the use of mobile phones, base stations and transmitters. They conducted a rigorous assessment of existing research and gathered a wide range of views. The Group published its Report on 11 May 2000. A copy of the Report can be found on the Group's website at Opens link in a new browser window
In its initial response published on 11 May 2000, the Government welcomed the Stewart Group's Report and accepted many of its recommendations. A copy of the Government's response may be found at Opens link in a new browser window. In particular the Government accepted adoption of precautionary approaches as advised by the Report. The Government's response outlined the range of actions being taken in response to the report's specific recommendations.
On 18 July 2000 Local Ministers announced the action they intended to take on foot of devolved matters.
Some recommendations of Stewart are being taken forward by the Government on a UK wide basis whilst others such as planning are being taken forward by the devolved administrations.
The Department of Health is keeping an overview of action taken by appropriate Departments to respond to the Report's recommendations. Progress is as follows -
  • Research is being taken forward by the Department of Health in conjunction with the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI)
  • DTI is developing arrangements for information about mobile phones exposures to be made available and on measurement and auditing of base stations throughout the UK. Auditing of base stations near schools is seen as a priority
  • The Department of Health is working with Health Departments of devolved administrations to provide information leaflets for the public giving clearly understandable information on mobile phone technology and related health effects.
  • Education Departments have issued advice to schools and local education boards about base stations in and around school premises and the use of mobile phones by children.
This consultation paper covers Northern Ireland only. The Department of Environment Transport and the Regions has already issued a Consultation Paper for England and the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Executive are expected to issue their consultations shortly
A copy of the consultation paper has been sent to every MP, MLA, political party, district council, health board/trust, telecommunications companies and to statutory, professional and voluntary bodies with an interest in planning. Further copies are available from Planning Service Headquarters, Department of the Environment, Clarence Court, 10 -18 Adelaide Street, Belfast BT2 8GB Tel. 028 9054 0111 and can be accessed on this website.
Views and comments should be sent to Mrs A McKee the above address by Monday 15 January 2000. E-mail:
For further information contact Paddy Murphy, DOE Press Office, Tel 028 9054 0014.
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