DCAN 14: Siting and Design of Radio Telecommunication Equipment
4.8 Access to telecommunication services in rural Northern Ireland is important for business, educational and social use. The landscape quality of rural areas can however be easily damaged by insensitive telecommunication installations. The impact is often heightened because equipment can be seen over long distances. To overcome this operators should seek to develop creative siting and design solutions.
4.9 Understanding an area’s landscape will help in designing sensitive proposals. It is best practice to avoid prominent locations visible from visitor attractions, scenic viewpoints, or the main line of vision from a road. If unavoidable, then it is preferable that equipment is disguised or concealed. Operators should consider the use of a landscape architect who can advise on:
- areas to avoid;
- the location with the minimum landscape impact; and
- mitigation measures to reduce the landscape impact.
4.10 People use familiar features to gauge the scale of a landscape, but some landscapes can seem larger than they really are because of a lack of scale indicators. A new radio telecommunication installation could act as a scale indicator and reduce the sense of space. Disguising and concealing techniques are appropriate for such areas. If a new mast is unavoidable its impact can be minimised by making it slim and simple in form.
4.11 The key natural heritage issue will be the equipment’s impact on the landscape. Other important issues are:·
- Loss of habitat - the development of a mast may not in itself contribute to any significant loss of habitat but consideration should be given to the associated development of new access tracks, widening existing tracks, powerlines, underground cables and equipment housing.
- Disturbance to wildlife especially during the breeding season - construction should be timed to avoid any sensitive periods.
- Indirect habitat damage through modification of drainage patterns - this could arise from construction activities such as cable trenching or access road formation.
- Earth Science - impact on important rocks, fossils, landforms, soils and land forming processes.
4.12 In sensitive rural locations it will often be useful for applicants to submit photographic montages or panoramic drawings of the proposal as it would look when completed from various views of the development site. The applicant should consider the use of a landscape architect for this work.
4.13 EHS Natural Heritage will be consulted on proposals that might affect natural heritage designations. Early consultation with the Planning Service and EHS will help the design process. In exceptional circumstances specialist advice such as a habitat survey may be requested.
4.14 The effect of inappropriately designed structures such as masts are particularly damaging in areas with wild land character, uninhabited and often relatively inaccessible countryside where the influence of human activity on the character and quality of the environment has been minimal. In these locations a poorly designed and sited mast could change a person’s whole perception of the area. If avoiding wild land is not possible equipment must be blended in or disguised.
4.15 Further information on the Department’s policies for the protection of landscape and heritage features can be found in PPS 2 ‘ Planning and Nature Conservation’ and PPS 6 ‘Planning, Archaeology and the Built Heritage’ respectively.