PPS 10: Telecommunications
Policy TEL 1: Larger Telecommunications Development
6.7 To facilitate the on-going roll-out of modern telecommunications networks the Department acknowledges that there will continue to be a need for larger telecommunications equipment and apparatus, such as masts and roof based antenna systems in appropriate locations.
6.8 Where such larger telecommunications infrastructure is required all the components of the proposed development should be considered together. This includes the antennas (even if they will not all be in service initially), mast or other supporting structure, equipment housing, cable runs, fencing, planting, landscaping, access, power supply and land lines. They should all be sited and designed to minimise their visual and environmental impact. In some cases further information on visual impact may be required, such as a photomontage to show the proposed equipment in its wider setting. Exceptionally in designated or other sensitive landscapes a landscape or visual impact assessment may be needed.
6.9 There is a range of different design and camouflage techniques for masts, antennas, equipment housing and cable runs which can help to disguise or conceal them. These include apparatus coloured to match building materials and masts designed to look like street furniture. The Department will expect operators to discuss what different design options are available. There may also be opportunities to design a mast and/or antenna as a positive feature.
6.10 In built up areas operators should wherever possible seek to locate and disguise larger apparatus on existing buildings and structures so that it is not conspicuous. Design should be sympathetic to the architectural form of the building. Any additional equipment whether on an existing mast, building or other structure should be designed and positioned sensitively in order to complement the visual ensemble already in place.
6.11 In the countryside telecommunications development has to be sited and designed carefully. Skylines can be easily broken and habitats and species easily disturbed. If telecommunications infrastructure is located in prominent positions it can change the character of a landscape and detract from its quality. Cumulative impacts can also cause concern. Areas designated for their landscape quality and other sensitive landscapes, such as the undeveloped coast, will pose particular challenges in finding an acceptable solution. The approach to finding the optimum solution may include disguising the antennas, sharing a site or existing infrastructure, minimising the size of a new mast, using stealth designs, and landscaping and appropriate screen planting. Hill-top or skyline sites should only be used as a last resort.
6.12 In countryside areas operators should also seek to use existing lanes or tracks to provide access to their sites as a new access road may cause greater visual impact or environmental damage than the actual installation. For example it may open up an otherwise undisturbed area to unwanted visitors. The construction of new access roads and other less formal access arrangements can also be damaging to archaeological sites and nature conservation interests. As a result the Department will only permit new access roads where they are absolutely necessary. Where they are required great care should be taken to ensure that they will not appear as a scar on the landscape through careful siting, choice of surfacing materials and where necessary appropriate planting. In exceptional cases however the Department may require the use of a helicopter for the construction, installation and ongoing maintenance of a base station.
6.13 In assessing the requirements for visibility splays at accesses to installations the Department will bear in mind that in many cases these are unlikely to give rise to traffic hazards as maintenance visits should not be more than quarterly. Where it is considered necessary to remove existing hedges to facilitate visibility splays replanting of appropriate species will be required to maintain rural character.