The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport have launched a technical consultation seeking views on proposals for changes to permitted development rights for electronic communications equipment in England.  The intention of the proposals is to support the deployment of 5G and to extend mobile coverage whilst balancing appropriate environmental protections and safeguards.

This consultation follows an earlier consultation in August 2019 and looks at how to implement the reforms set out in the Government’s response to this earlier consultation.

Part 16 of Schedule 2 to the General Permitted Development Order 2015 deals with permitted development rights for electronic communications equipment.  Currently most electronic communications equipment can be installed as permitted development, subject to limits on the scale and location of development.  In locations with an environmental designation, such as Conservation Areas, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks, World Heritage Sites (Article 2(3) land), these permitted development rights either do not apply or are more restricted.  The proposals set out in this consultation (summarised below) allow for wider permitted development rights, including on Article 2(3) land, and seek to balance the benefits of improved connectivity with local control and environmental protection.  Note that the proposals do not apply to sites of special scientific interest, listed buildings or scheduled monuments.

Enabling deployment of radio equipment housing

  • Single developments of small radio equipment housing up to 2.5m3 would be permitted on Article 2(3) land without prior approval.
  • Single developments of small radio equipment housing exceeding 2.5m3 would be permitted on Article 2(3) land, subject to prior approval.
  • Restrictions on singular and cumulative permitted development of radio equipment housing would not apply in respect of all land (including Article 2(3) land) where these are located in an enclosed compound of up to 100m2, subject to restrictions to ensure new equipment does not have an adverse visual impact.

Strengthening existing ground-based masts

  • Limited increases in the width of existing ground-based masts would be permitted without prior approval on all land, including Article 2(3) land.  Greater increases would be permitted, subject to prior approval, on all land including Article 2(3) land.  The proposals differentiate between existing masts which are less than one metre in width and those that are more than one metre in width. The consultation also seeks views as to whether different limits should apply to Article 2(3) land and highway land.
  • Limited increases to the height of existing ground-based masts would be permitted without prior approval on land that is not Article 2(3) land.  Greater increases would be permitted on all land (including Article 2(3) land) up to specified limits, subject to prior approval.

Building-based masts

  • Building-based masts would be permitted within 20 metres of the highway when located on buildings less than 15 metres tall, subject to prior approval.  This would not apply to Article 2(3) land.
  • Short building-based masts and apparatus would be permitted without prior approval, subject to the height by which the apparatus can exceed the highest part of the building being no more than six metres.  This would not apply to Article 2(3) land.

New ground-based masts

  • On Article 2(3) land or highway land, the erection of a new ground-based mast up to 25 metres in height would be permitted, subject to prior approval.
  • On all other land, the erection of a new ground-based mast up to 30 metres in height would be permitted, subject to prior approval.
  • The consultation is also seeking views as to whether monopole masts of up to 15 metres should be permitted without prior approval (except on Article 2(3) land).

As well as the proposed amendments to permitted development rights set out above, the consultation also seeks views about a proposal to include a prior notification procedure for development impacting on safeguarded areas (aerodromes, technical sites and military explosives storage areas).  It also includes a proposal to amend the definition of ‘small cell systems’, in relation to which certain permitted development rights already exist, in order to widen this definition and remove uncertainty as to what types of technology are included.

The consultation applies only to England and will close shortly before midnight on 14 June 2021.

Contributor: Florien Stone

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at April 2021. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

Written by

Katherine Evans

Katherine Evans

Date published

26 April 2021

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