Planning Portal

Attwood boosts broadband

Published on Tue, 23 Apr 2013 by
Environment Minister Alex Attwood today announced changes to the planning system that will boost mobile phone and internet coverage in Northern Ireland.
The changes, which take effect from 30 April 2013, will speed up the planning process as planning applications will no longer be needed to replace, alter or extend an existing mast or antenna or to install a limited number of antennas on an existing mast. Development proposals for new masts will continue to be processed through the planning application system.

Alex Attwood said: “I want to see better coverage for mobiles and broadband. Citizens, communities and business want this. My plan will help this. Permitted development for mobile upgrades on masts and antennas will help mobile operators improve coverage.

“These changes will support the extension of telecommunications systems which are vital to people and businesses in Northern Ireland.

“This is part of a roll out of changes to permitted development rights in the past six months such as removing the need for planning permission for minor works like solar panels for schools, farms and businesses; small extensions for shops and offices; and proposals to ease planning rules for farmers.

“These changes complement my overall commitment to ensure that a responsive, cost effective and speedy planning system is transferred to councils in 2015. The DOE is helping lead in protecting the environment and in supporting economic recovery. These changes demonstrate this.”

John Cooke, Executive Director from the Mobile Operators Association which represents the four UK mobile network operators said: “The mobile operators are upgrading their networks here in Northern Ireland, both to deploy new 4G superfast mobile broadband, and to enhance existing 2G and 3G service. These changes will facilitate those improvements. Mobile devices are now ubiquitous. Good mobile connectivity benefits the wider economy, promotes social inclusion, is important in the delivery of public services and promotes sustainability.”

The Minister concluded: ““These improvements are a common sense approach. They are speeding up planning by reducing the number of applications for minor works. Quarterly figures are a testament to the success of such measures which show an ongoing consistent improvement in planning processing times – but I will challenge myself and planning to go further.”

Notes to editors:

1. In Northern Ireland, the Planning (General Development) Order (NI) 1993 (S.R. 1993 No. 278 as amended) (the “GDO”) sets out what type of development can be undertaken without requiring a planning application. These are referred to as permitted development rights and often relate to works that have minor impact to neighbours and on the environment.

2. The Planning (General Development) (Amendment) Order (Northern Ireland) 2013 (S.R. 2013 No. 96) is available at which comes into operation on 30 April 2013 amends the GDO by revising existing permitted development rights for development by statutory undertakers and telecommunications to expand the scope of those rights and introducing specific permitted development rights for street trading and non domestic microgeneration.

3. The extension of permitted development rights will reduce the number of planning applications that need to be submitted for generally minor works. This will contribute to further streamlining the planning system and ensure that it concentrates resources on those applications that require detailed examination.

4. For mast and antenna development, notice is to be given to the owner of the land (if that owner is not also the operator) of the development. In the case of the installation, alteration or replacement of an antenna, notice is also to be given to the planning authority and is to be accompanied by a declaration that the development is designed to be in full compliance with the requirements of the radio frequency public exposure guidelines of the International Commission on Non-ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).
5. Land can be temporarily used for street markets/trading where the trader has a street trading licence.

6. Statutory undertakers will benefit from expanded permitted development rights including rail safety systems, electricity lines for individual consumers of up to 400 metres, security fencing and CCTV for dock, piers and harbour undertakers, postal service pouch boxes, water and sewerage equipment housing and control kiosks.

7. All media enquiries should be directed to the DOE Press Office on 028 9025 6058. For out of office hours, please contact the duty press officer on pager 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.
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