Planning Portal

Sam Foster Announces Way Forward For Telecommunications Legislation

Published on Tue, 17 Jul 2001
Following the Executive Committee’s decision of 14 June 2001 to introduce full planning control for all telecommunications development, including masts, Mr Sam Foster, MLA, the Minister of the Environment, has now announced the way forward.
Mr Foster said: "I have now considered the decision of the Executive Committee and will be implementing it by introducing legislation to the Assembly after the summer recess, to amend the current Planning Regulations. When the new legislation comes into operation, it will remove all permitted development rights for telecommunications code system operators, for example mobile phone companies. I will also be publishing the final version of a Planning Policy Statement on telecommunications development.
"While I am aware of the benefits which a modern communications system can bring to society and in particular to the economy I, together with my Executive colleagues, also recognise that people are concerned about where masts and other telecommunications apparatus are located.
"The consequence of the change to the legislation will be that all development by telecommunications code system operators must go through the full planning process. This change, while still allowing the roll out of telecommunications infrastructure, will give members of the public and district councils more say in the control of such developments."

Notes to Editors

  1. A Consultation Paper which formed part of the Department’s response to the Report of the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (The Stewart Report) was issued on 10 November 2000. It sought views on possible changes to legislation governing the development of telecommunications infrastructure by licensed operators, including the erection or alteration of telecommunications masts. Views were also sought on a draft Planning Policy Statement (PPS 10) on telecommunications development.
  2. Telecommunications operators, licensed for the whole of the UK, by the Department of Trade and Industry under the Telecommunications Act 1984 currently enjoy permitted development rights in NI under Part 17 of Schedule 1 to the Planning (General Development) Order (Northern Ireland) 1993 as amended (commonly referred to as the GDO). At present these rights allow the operators 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, currently subject to a ‘Prior Approval Procedure’, under which the Department has the opportunity to say whether it wishes to approve details of the siting and appearance of the installation.
  3. The Minister presented the outcome of the November consultation, to which there were 80 responses, to the Executive Committee on 14 June 2001. Of the 80 responses received, these were split between those opposed to a shift towards a policy of full planning control and those who advocated such a shift.
  4. While recognising that a balance had to be found between public concern and frustrations over the location of telecommunications infrastructure and the growing need for a modern telecommunications system to support the development of the economy the Executive Committee decided that the best way forward was to introduce full planning control.
  5. Separate Consultation exercises were carried out in England, Wales and Scotland. England and Wales have announced that their current permitted development rights and Prior Approval system are to be retained with an extended consultation arrangements. Scotland has announced that all new ground based masts will be subject to full planning control and masts on buildings, currently outwith planning control will be greatly restricted.
  6. For further information contact Paddy Murphy DOE Press Office Tel 028 9054 0014.
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