Planning Portal

PPS 10: Telecommunications
Policy TEL 1: Mast and Site Sharing

6.16 In order to limit visual intrusion the Department attaches considerable importance to keeping the numbers of radio and telecommunications masts, and the sites for such installations to a minimum, consistent with the efficient operation of the network.
6.17 The sharing of masts will be strongly encouraged where it represents the best environmental option in a particular case. Additional equipment should be designed and positioned as sensitively as possible, though technical constraints may limit the possibilities. In some circumstances the shared use of an existing mast might require an increase in the height, and therefore the visibility, of that mast. The Department will therefore seek to ensure that the cumulative visual impact of antennas on masts is kept at an acceptable level. Alternatives to mast sharing will be preferable where additional antennas would lead to undue clutter, detract from the aesthetics of the existing installation, or increase mast height to an unacceptable level.
6.18 Depending upon the characteristics of the location, site sharing (both rooftop and ground based sites) as opposed to mast sharing may represent a more appropriate solution. A second installation located alongside or behind the principal installation may, for example, provide a more beneficial solution in environmental and planning terms.
6.19 All applications for new masts will need to be accompanied by evidence that the possibility of erecting antennas on an existing building, mast or other structure has been explored and should outline the specific reasons why this course of action is not possible. Where the evidence regarding the consideration of alternative options is not considered satisfactory, planning permission may be refused. In such circumstances the Department will give clear reasons why it considers the evidence to be unsatisfactory. In reaching its decisions, the Department will of course be mindful of the technical constraints on network development.
6.20 Where a new ground based mast is considered necessary, the siting and design must have regard to the character of the local landscape or townscape and its sensitivity and capacity to accommodate the proposed development. Where appropriate existing features should be used to help minimise the visual impact, while the boundaries of the site should be drawn large enough to accommodate any necessary landscape works. Depending on location the Department will also bear in mind that an appropriately designed single operator mast may be less intrusive in the environment than a mast designed to facilitate sharing.
6.21 The Department will co-operate with operators in seeking to find the optimum environmental and network solution on a case-by-case basis.
6.22 Where it is agreed that the future sharing of a particular mast or site is desirable, the Department will wish to be satisfied that the site can accommodate any additional apparatus that would be required.
6.23 Following the introduction of the Telecommunications (Interconnection) Regulations 1997 7, in any instance where there is a dispute regarding the sharing of an existing mast or site, either party may ask the Director General of Telecommunications to resolve the matter. If the Director General considers it appropriate, he may direct the relevant telecommunications operators to share 8. The powers available under the Regulations do not, however, cover the refusal by a third party, such as a landowner, to allow shared use of a mast.
6.24 As outlined in paragraph 2.18 the Radiocommunications Agency has recently developed a publicly accessible database of all operating externally sited cellular base stations in the UK. This should assist operators in considering possible antenna sites in a particular area. Where an operator makes an application for a new mast which is not on the database, the Department may reasonably expect the applicant to show that no site on the database would present a practicable alternative to the location proposed.
6.25 Public bodies, such as Government agencies and local district councils, may be able to reduce planning problems for applicants for telecommunications development and for the community at large by making suitable property in their ownership available to operators. Where such property is not potentially available then the optimum siting and design solutions for apparatus may not be achievable.
6.26 Where planning permission is granted for telecommunications apparatus the Department will impose a condition requiring its removal, as soon as reasonably practicable after it is no longer required for telecommunications purposes. The land or site should then be restored to its condition before the development took place, or to any other condition as may be agreed in writing between the Department and the developer.
7 SI 1997 No 2931
8 For further information, see statement of 6 November 1998 by the Director General of Telecommunications. This is available from the Research and Intelligence Unit, OFTEL, 50 Ludgate Hill, London, EC4M 7JJ (tel 0171 6348761) or the OFTEL website (www.oftel.gov.uk/competition/mast1198.htm)
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