Planning Portal

Nesbitt Introduces Tougher Legislation And Policy For Mobile Phone Masts

Published on Thu, 11 Apr 2002
Environment Minister, Mr Dermot Nesbitt MLA, today announced that he is introducing tougher planning control on mobile phone masts. It will be stricter than any other region of the British Isles.
Previously, only masts over 15 metres needed full planning permission. Now all applications for masts, no matter what their size, will need full planning permission from the end of May 2002, subject to scrutiny of the new legislation by the Assembly.
In addition, Mr Nesbitt also published today a new policy on telecommunication masts. The new policy, Planning Policy Statement 10, (PPS 10), seeks to balance the need for a modern communications system with sensitive design and siting.
Mr Nesbitt said: "A modern communications system brings massive benefits to people and businesses alike. The use of mobile phones has risen dramatically in Northern Ireland in the last few years, as it has in many other parts of the developed world.
"People in Northern Ireland have come to enjoy the convenience and accessibility mobile phones provide, and their many benefits. None of this could have happened without the masts and other infrastructure, which enable the service to be delivered across Northern Ireland.
"But people are also concerned about where telecommunication masts are located. It is vital that masts are designed and sited sensitively so that their environmental impact is kept to a minimum.
"People in local communities must have a better opportunity to have their say on proposals for mast development, particularly given public concern about the possible health effects associated with mobile phone technology.
"That is why I have published this Planning Policy Statement today and why I will bring forward legislation within the next few weeks, that will introduce full planning control for telecommunications development by mobile phone operators.
"The new legislation is stricter than England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland. Nowhere else in these islands will mobile phone mast development be controlled to the same degree as in Northern Ireland.
"The legislation will subject all development proposals from mobile phone operators to the full rigour of the planning process and, by doing so, will strengthen public and local Council participation in the decision-making process.
"It will also put operators on notice to think very carefully about where, and how, they site base stations. It will remind them of the need to honour their commitment to deliver significantly improved consultation with local communities before they present planning applications."
Commenting specifically on PPS 10, Mr Nesbitt said: "PPS 10 will embody the Northern Ireland Executive’s Programme for Government commitment to ensure that the communications infrastructure of Northern Ireland is developed to a standard that our economy requires, while keeping environmental impact to a minimum. It addresses a number of key issues including development of infrastructure, mast and site sharing, visual and environmental impact, interference to terrestrial broadcasting and health.
"The DOE will permit proposals for telecommunications development only where they will not result in unacceptable damage to visual amenity, or harm environmentally sensitive features. Developers will therefore be required to demonstrate that proposals for telecommunications development have been sited and designed to minimise visual and environmental impact."
While the planning system is not the appropriate mechanism for determining public health safeguards, the DOE will continue to take advice from DHSSPS on health matters associated with planning proposals. That advice is set out in detail in PPS 10.
The Minister said that the policy and legislation changes that he has announced will address the concerns of the Stewart Group, and others, about public consultation on masts.
"The new arrangements I have announced today will strike the right balance between giving people a better opportunity to have their views on development proposals heard without unnecessarily hindering the development of a modern telecommunications network. It will, of course, be important to continue to keep the whole area of mobile phone technologies under review, in the light of any further research evidence that emerges."

Notes to Editors

  1. Environment Minister, Mr Dermot Nesbitt MLA, will be available for media interviews between 1.30 pm and 2.15pm on Thursday 11 April in DOE HQ, Clarence Court, 10-18 Adelaide Street, Belfast.
  2. The new Telecommunications legislation has been sent to the Assembly Environment Committee for comment and will be laid before the Assembly within the next few weeks. It should come into effect before the end of May 2002.
  3. Planning Policy Statement 10 (PPS 10) sets out the DOE’s planning policies for telecommunications development. It comes into effect immediately on publication.
  4. PPS’s in general set out the policies of the DOE in particular aspects of land-use planning and apply to the whole of Northern Ireland. Their contents will be taken into account in preparing development plans, decisions on individual planning applications and appeals.
  5. PPS 10 can be accessed on this website.
  6. For further information, please contact Philip Maguire, DOE information Office, tel 028 9054 0013, mobile 07713 652815, email
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