Carter Jonas
Carter Jonas

Phone Mast Changes - Time to nail your colours to the phone mast?

An announcement in the March Budget by George Osborne revealed that a 5G strategy will be delivered by 2017 as the UK strives to become a world leader in this next stage of mobile communication technology.

A change to permitted development rights will see a growth in the height of telecoms masts exempt from the need for planning permission – and with taller masts may come bids by operators to share sites on mast that can carry more aerials.

At present, new ground based telecoms masts up to 15 metres in height can be built in a "non-protected area" without planning permission. But the proposal is that this summer the height limit will rise to 25 metres without the need for planning permission. Highways and residential areas will see a height restriction to 20 metres. "Protected areas" such as conservation areas and national parks, will be subject to a new permitted development right (PDR’s) allowing new ground based masts of up to 20 metres without planning permission

Under these PDRs, the telecoms operator only needs to apply to the planning authority for "prior approval" for the site and external appearance of the mast. While consideration will be 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 metres without prior approval while an existing mast can grow from 20 metres to 25 metres in non-protected areas with approval.

As the law stands, for any PDR’s to apply, the telecoms operator has to be in control of the land, which means that they must occupy it, and either own the freehold or a lease for a minimum of 10 years. If they are not in control of the land, they will have to apply for planning permission.

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 desperate to get a good mobile signal.

It’s amazing to learn that more than 20% of the UK has no mobile phone connection, hence the push to increase network coverage. Will you be one who benefits through network growth or one who finds operators can make more money from their masts while as landowner you don’t make a penny?

It may be a good time to look at your lease agreements and be prepared for change.

Phillip NicholsonMRICS, FAAV

Consultant

Phillip is a Partner based in Marlborough and heads up the firm's specialist Country House Solutions Team. His areas of expertise are rural estate management, the valuation and surveying of country ho...

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