Proposed changes to permitted development rights

Proposed changes to permitted development rights

A joint technical consultation between the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has been published today. It follows an earlier consultation in 2019 on the principle of the reforms. Views are being sought on proposed planning reforms that will allow the speedier deployment of telecoms equipment while keeping safeguards in place.

Key proposals:

  • Existing mobile masts to be strengthened without prior approval so that they can be upgraded for 5G and shared between mobile operators. This would allow increases to the width of existing masts by up to either 50% or two metres (whichever is greatest), and in unprotected areas allow increases in height up to a maximum of 25 metres (previously 20 metres). Greater increases will also be permitted subject to approval by the local authority.
  • New masts to be built up to five metres higher – meaning a maximum of 30 metres in unprotected areas and 25 metres in protected areas, subject to approval by the planning authority.
  • Greater freedoms for slimline ‘monopole’ masts up to 15 metres in height, which are less visually intrusive than standard masts and used for 5G rollout, in unprotected areas. This could mean operators notifying local authorities of their intention to proceed without needing prior approval. This would align it with current rights that telecoms operators have for telegraph poles.
  • Building-based masts to be placed nearer to highways to bring better mobile coverage to road networks, subject to prior approval, and in unprotected areas smaller building-based masts to be permitted without prior approval.
  • Cabinets containing radio equipment to be deployed alongside masts without prior approval and to allow greater flexibility for installing cabinets in existing compounds – fenced-off sites containing masts and other communications equipment – to support new 5G networks.

The consultation will run for eight weeks and closes on 14 June 2021.

DCMS is also leading on a new code of practice for mobile network operators that will provide updated guidance on how operators and local authorities can work together and will include best practice for the siting of new infrastructure, particularly in protected areas, and ensuring stakeholders are properly consulted.

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