Local planning authority and responsibilities
Our main responsibilities in regard to the commercial roll-out of 5G is as the Local Planning Authority (LPA). Local Planning Authorities should comply with The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which sets out the Government’s planning policies for England and how these should be applied.
Chapter 10 of the NPPF covers ‘Supporting high quality communications’ and sets out the high-level responsibilities of councils and of planning applicants. Chapter 10, Section 112 states:
“Advanced, high quality and reliable communications infrastructure is essential for economic growth and social well-being. Planning policies and decisions should support the expansion of electronic communications networks, including next generation mobile technology (such as 5G) and full fibre broadband connections.”
In regards to planning applications for communications networks, Chapter 10, Section 114 of the NPPF requires councils to ensure that:
a) they have evidence to demonstrate that electronic communications infrastructure is not expected to cause significant and irremediable interference with other electrical equipment, air traffic services or instrumentation operated in the national interest; and
b) they have considered the possibility of the construction of new buildings or other structures interfering with broadcast and electronic communications services.
Chapter 10, Section 116 of the NPPF states that local planning authorities (councils) must determine applications on planning grounds only. They should not seek to prevent competition between different operators, question the need for an electronic communications system, or set health safeguards different from the International Commission guidelines for public exposure.
In accordance with Chapter 10 (Section 115) of the NPPF, applications from commercial mobile network operators for the development of 5G networks (including applications for prior approval under the General Permitted Development Order) should be supported by the necessary evidence to justify the proposed development. This should include:
a) the outcome of consultations with organisations with an interest in the proposed development, in particular with the relevant body where a mast is to be installed near a school or college, or within a statutory safeguarding zone surrounding an aerodrome, technical site or military explosives storage area; and
b) for an addition to an existing mast or base station, a statement that self-certifies that the cumulative exposure, when operational, will not exceed International Commission guidelines on non-ionising radiation protection; or
c) for a new mast or base station, evidence that the applicant has explored the possibility of erecting antennas on an existing building, mast or other structure and a statement that self-certifies that, when operational, International Commission guidelines will be met.
A mobile network operator may submit a planning application for prior approval under the General Permitted Development Order (Part 16 of Schedule 2 of the GPDO 2016). Prior approval applications establish the principle of the development as permitted development but require operators to obtain the prior approval from the LPA on the siting and appearance of the items to be installed, in addition to providing the ‘necessary evidence’ set out in NPPF Chapter 10 Section 115.
The factors which can be considered in relation to appearance as part of the prior approval process include:
- design, form, shape and dimensions
- colour and materials,
- whether there are more suitable sites for the proposed works.
The factors which can be considered concerning siting include:
- height of the site in relation to surrounding ground
- existing topographical features and natural vegetation
- the effect on the skyline or horizon
- the site when observed from any side
- the site in relation to areas designated for scenic value
- the site in relation to existing masts, structures and buildings
- the site in relation to residential properties
The Local Planning Authority can set local planning policies either within its statutory Local Plan or within a Supplementary Planning Document. BCP Council has not set out any specific local planning policies in regards to 5G networks, but if it were to produce any local polices these would need to align with the NPPF