A change to permitted development rights will see a growth in the height of telecoms masts that will be exempt from the need for planning permission. This change came about as a result of announcement in the March Budget by George Osborne. He revealed that a new 5G strategy would be delivered by 2017, as the UK strives to become a world leader in the next generation of mobile communication.

Taller masts may result in operators wanting to share masts that can carry more aerials. At present, new telecoms masts up to 15 meters in height can be built in a ‘non-protected area’ without planning permission. The proposals will increase that limit to 25 meters.

Highways and residential areas will see a height restriction of 20 meters in ‘protected areas’. These include conservation areas and national parks. Masts in protected areas will be subject to a new permitted development right (PDR) allowing new ground-based masts of up to 20 meters without planning permission. Under these PDRs, the telecoms operator only needs to apply to the planning authority for prior approval for both the site and external appearance of the mast.

While consideration is given to the mast’s visual impact, the mast is automatically permitted in principle. Of immediate concern is that masts on existing sites in both protected and non-protected areas can be increased in height to 20 meters without prior approval, while an existing mast can grow from 20 meters to 25 meters in non-protected areas without approval.

Whether or not you are an enthusiast for the changes may depend on whether you own a site where a telecoms company can take advantage of an existing lease without paying you extra, or whether you are one of those people keen to get a good mobile signal in a rural location. It’s amazing to learn that more than 20% of the UK still has no mobile phone coverage, (hence the push to increase network coverage).

To gain our advice on planning for mobile phone masts and any other rural planning and development matters, call Richard Edge or Alex Orttewell on 01935 852170 or email info@assetsphere.co.uk