CPRE pleads for Government to get a grip on phone masts

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has stepped up its campaign to prevent large swathes of the countryside being swamped by mobile phone masts.

The group claims there are likely to be over 50,000 mobile phone masts in the UK by the end of 2007 – a 20% increase on present numbers – with many going up in unspoilt and protected areas.

CPRE say this is largely the result of a deregulated planning system which automatically grants permission to masts under 15 metres in height. Paul Miner, CPRE Planning campaigner said:

“Mobile phone network operators continue to be able to put up many new masts without having to apply for planning permission. Operators are also under no formal obligation to discuss their overall plans for new masts in an area with local authorities or community groups. Both these issues mean that many councils and local people just don’t know how to go about stopping these things from being erected.”

Local authorities do have eight weeks to refuse permission for masts, but, the CPRE says, this has led to a number of masts going up when the local authority has made a decision to refuse but the decision has been received by the operator after the specified period.

Mr Miner told edie that the problem was compounded by groups like Network Rail, who have automatic rights to put up masts on their own land without having to apply at all to the local authority. He said Network Rail were planning over 2,000 masts across the country, some of which were cutting straight through protected areas and areas of outstanding natural beauty such as the Avon valley near Bath and Tor Valley in Devon where masts over 33 metres high have been planned.

“What we’re asking is that planners and network operators be subject to obligatory public consultation not only when they roll out their plans, but when they apply to build each individual mast. There are solutions, such as sharing with other network operators or being more discreet about the masts they put up,” he continued.

In July 2004, the Government, in response to the all-party parliamentary mobile group’s report, stated that it “is particularly sympathetic that there should be full consultation with local people and will look carefully at the group’s recommendations to see what more can be done in this area.”

By David Hopkins

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