HC Deb 05 June 2000 vol 351 cc60-1W
Mr. Gordon Prentice

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what powers are available to planning authorities to regulate the siting, appearance and power of mobile phone transmitter masts. [124098]

Ms Beverley Hughes

Government planning policy for telecommunications is set out in Planning Policy Guidance note 8 (revised): Telecommunications, and the Department's Circular 4/99 "Planning for Telecommunications".

The installation of any telecommunications mast in protected areas, such as National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and conservation areas, and of masts above 15 metres in height elsewhere, is subject to a planning application for determination by the local planning authority. In the case of masts of 15 metres and below in height, local planning authorities are able to consider the siting and appearance of such development by licensed telecommunications code system operators in accordance with the "prior approval procedure" under Part 24 of Schedule 2 to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (as amended).

Under the prior approval procedure, a local planning authority has the opportunity to say whether it wishes to approve, within 42 days for ground-based masts and 28 days for masts on a building or structure, details of the siting and appearance of the installation, if an authority considers that the development will pose a serious threat to amenity, it is able to refuse approval, although authorities are advised to explore the scope for modifying its siting and/or appearance before doing so.

Planning Authorities are not responsible for regulating the power of mobile phone masts, and have no powers to do so. Telecommunications operators have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 and the Management of the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to ensure that their work activities, which would include the operation or their apparatus, do not present a risk to employees and the general public.

In our response to the report of the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones, issued on 11 May 2000 and placed in the Libraries of both Houses, the Government said that they were minded to introduce a requirement for an application for full planning permission for all new telecommunications masts, but would need to consult widely before doing so, including on the principle and precise scope of any new arrangements. We shall issue a consultation paper on this and related guidance as soon as practicable.