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Publication - Consultation Responses

Relaxation of planning controls for digital communications infrastructure: consultation responses

Published: 25 May 2017
Part of:
Building, planning and design, Economy, Research
ISBN:
9781786529589

Analysis of responses to public consultation on digital infrastructure (e.g. phone masts, street cabinets and antennas).

32 page PDF

415.4kB

32 page PDF

415.4kB

Contents
Relaxation of planning controls for digital communications infrastructure: consultation responses
New PD Rights - New Ground Based Masts

32 page PDF

415.4kB

New PD Rights - New Ground Based Masts

Q10 - Do you agree with the proposals to introduce PD rights for new ground based masts outside the Class 67 designated areas? (Yes - 13 , No - 13)

Respondent Group Yes No Comments only No answer/ comment Total
Industry 2 1 3 6
Planning Authority 4 5 1 10
Govt & Agencies 1 2 1 4
Heritage Bodies 2 2 3 7
Individuals 2 3 5
Other 2 4 6
Total 13 13 1 11 38

Q10a - Do you agree with the proposed height restriction of 25m? (Yes - 16, No - 9 )

Respondent Group Yes No Comments only No answer/ comment Total
Industry 3 2 1 6
Planning Authority 4 4 2 10
Govt & Agencies 2 1 1 4
Heritage Bodies 2 2 3 7
Individuals 3 2 5
Other 2 4 6
Total 16 9 4 9 38

Q10b - Do you agree Prior Approval should be required on siting and appearance? (Yes - 21, No - 3 )

Respondent Group Yes No Comments only No answer Total
Industry 3 3 6
Planning Authority 4 3 3 10
Govt & Agencies 3 1 4
Heritage Bodies 4 3 7
Individuals 5 5
Other 2 4 6
Total 21 3 3 11 38

Q11a - Is there scope to introduce Class 67 PD rights for new for new ground based masts within any, or all of the Class 67 designated areas? (Yes - 7 , No - 21 )

Respondent Group Yes No Comments only No answer/ comment Total
Industry 3 2 1 6
Planning Authority 1 9 10
Govt & Agencies 2 2 4
Heritage Bodies 1 4 1 1 7
Individuals 2 3 5
Other 1 1 4 6
Total 7 21 2 8 38

Q11b - If yes, within which of the Class 67 designations should such PD rights apply? Please give reasons for your answer.

Respondent Group Comments No Answer/ Comment Total
Industry 4 2 6
Planning Authority 5 5 10
Govt & Agencies 1 3 4
Heritage Bodies 4 3 7
Individuals 2 3 5
Other 6 6
Total 38

Q11c - Should any conditions (e.g. Prior Approval) and/or restrictions (e.g. on height) apply?

Respondent Group Yes No Comments only No answer/ comment Total
Industry 3 1 2 6
Planning Authority 2 2 2 4 10
Govt & Agencies 1 3 4
Heritage Bodies 2 1 1 3 7
Individuals 3 2 5
Other 2 4 6
Total 10 3 7 18 38

37. The level of agreement with the proposals covered by the above questions varied. Some respondents felt that in order for a full assessment of impact of new ground based masts the only way to handle this would be through full planning permission. Others agreed with the replacement of a full planning application process with a prior approval procedure, which they felt would appear to strike a more appropriate balance between the wishes of the ECCO for a quicker and more permissive planning regime, and the need to minimise impact on amenity in sensitive locations.

38. There were fairly even splits in opinion across all respondent groups when it came to PD rights for new ground based masts outside designated areas. When it comes to issues around prior approval and PD rights for such masts in designated areas, clearer majorities of opinion emerge in some groups.

39. In the Industry group there is a split between those firms who are mobile network operators ( MNO) and those who operate other networks but who provide space on their infrastructure for MNO. The MNO are keen to have PD rights with no prior approval procedure for new ground based masts under 15m in height and then prior approval for those from 15m up to 25m in height. They recommend the approach to designated areas taken in England, with PD rights for masts up to 20m high subject to prior approval procedures.

40. However, the MNO consider the proposed approach to prior approval in the consultation paper as little better than an application for planning permission. They recommend the approach in England, whereby if the planning authority requires prior approval be obtained, if no decision is issued within a specified period, the developer can proceed in accordance with the plans submitted. They also suggest some of the other features of the approach that applies in England - e.g. for developer and planning authority to agree changes to proposals and extensions to the period for determining prior approval.

41. Two firms in the 'Industry' group, who are not MNO, are against PD rights for new ground based masts in designated areas and are either indifferent or against them outside designated areas. They see prior approval, in terms of effort and process, as really no better than an application for planning permission as regard new masts. They see the approach of bigger masts that they use as the best way to rollout infrastructure (as regards coverage and sharing) and that they consider the planning application process for new masts to be appropriate and effective in developing new sites.

42. 'Planning Authority' respondents were split as regards the proposals outside designated areas, some feeling an application for planning permission was appropriate. On the issue of prior approval, a majority did not support this - with references to its being confusing, including for the public, an inadequate form of control and unlikely to remove processing burdens from the planning authority. They pointed to some of the prior approval requirements similar to an application for planning permission, but referred to insufficient time to process applications and inadequate consultation requirements. Even those who agreed were concerned about clarity, especially around validation of applications, the level of processing required and costs.

43. Almost all 'Planning Authorities' felt PD rights for such development should not apply in designated areas, where they believe issues require consideration and control through an application for planning permission.

44. In terms of 'Government and Agencies' responses, while HES were happy with PD rights and prior approval outside designated areas; they felt new ground based masts in designated areas required the full consideration under an application for planning permission. NATS and MOD believed that there should be a requirement to consult relevant bodies in safeguarded areas regarding aircraft navigation and communications and other potential interference with technical sites. SNH were concerned with the potential impact of such large structure and additional ancillary equipment, and so prior approval would need sufficient assessments and information to address the potential impacts. They were still concerned about cumulative impacts, which they consider prior approval may struggle to deal with.

45. Of the 'Heritage Bodies' who responded, two were supportive and two not as regards PD rights outside designated areas - with some concerns about undesignated or unidentified archaeology. Only one was supportive of PD rights in certain designated areas, while others who responded were against either in all or in those designated areas within their area of concern. There were mixed views as regards prior approval - concerns about permission in effect already being granted under PD rights, adequacy of information requirements and consultation requirements.

46. 'Individuals' were split, with some for and some against PD rights, whether in or outside designated areas. Some highlighted the sensitivity of the issue for the public. One respondent requested that within residential areas there should be a 100m buffer for all residential properties. There was the feeling that the proposal could result in masts appearing in all sorts of places, that councils should have the power to act, and that community consultation was an important factor in decision-making. It was mentioned that the height of the masts in the proposals should be reduced, this was a view shared by some 'Planning Authority' respondents.

47. Those in the 'Others' group were supportive of the changes in this area of PD rights, though one of them seemed to think the prior approval procedure proposed was the same as that applying in England.

New PD Rights - Prior Approval For New Ground Based Masts

Q12a - Do you agree with the proposed mechanism for Prior Approval of new ground based masts? (Yes - 16, No - 14)

Respondent Group Yes No Comments only No answer Total
Industry 1 4 1 6
Planning Authority 2 7 1 10
Govt & Agencies 2 1 2 4
Heritage Bodies 4 2 1 7
Individuals 5 5
Other 2 4 6
Total 16 14 8 38

Q12b - In particular, do you agree with the proposed publicity requirements, including neighbour notification and on-line publication?(Yes - 18, No - 10 )

Respondent Group Yes No Comments only No answer Total
Industry 3 1 2 6
Planning Authority 2 7 1 10
Govt & Agencies 2 2 4
Heritage Bodies 5 1 1 7
Individuals 4 1 5
Other 2 4 6
Total 18 9 1 10 38

Q12c - Do you agree with the proposed list of statutory consultees for the purposes of Class 67 Prior Approval?(Yes - 20 , No - 10 )

Respondent Group Yes No Comments only No answer Total
Industry 5 1 6
Planning Authority 4 5 1 10
Govt & Agencies 1 2 1 4
Heritage Bodies 3 3 1 7
Individuals 5 5
Other 2 4 6
Total 20 10 8 38

Q13 - Please explain your answers and any suggestions for alternative requirements. Do you have any further comments on the proposed Prior Approval process for new ground based masts?

Respondent Group Comments No Answer/ Comment Total
Industry 4 2 6
Planning Authority 10 10
Govt & Agencies 3 1 4
Heritage Bodies 6 1 7
Individuals 2 3 5
Other 2 4 6
Total 27 11 38

48. The previous section indicated that, outside the MNO, there were differences of opinion over the use of prior approval in principle. There was an indication among some of those who do not like prior approval that, if PD rights for ground based masts or certain other developments in more sensitive locations were to be put in place, it would be needed. The responses to the questions in this section included various requests from across respondent groups for changes to the proposals for prior approval contained in the consultation paper. In particular:

  • Concerns over indefinite timescales - the proposed 40 day period not being stipulated in the draft legislation in the consultation paper.
  • There is a need to stipulate when start date begins and clarify validation of prior approval application requirements.
  • 40 days is inadequate for processing - e.g. given publicity and consultation requirements.
  • Appeal for non-determination creates a lengthy process (compared to the procedure in England where non-determination within the specified timescale means the developer can proceed).
  • Provision to allow extensions to periods for determination should be considered.
  • Appeals should go to Scottish Ministers not local review bodies. Concern was raised regarding installing a mast under PD rights and prior approval and then extending its height immediately through PD rights.
  • Revise existing good practice planning guidance for these developments.
  • Extend the list of triggers for statutory consultation and increase the consultation period to 21 days.
  • All designated areas should be have relevant consultation requirements - HES, SNH, relevant authorities in safeguarded areas and the Forestry Commission were cited as necessary statutory consultees.
  • Wild Land mapping should be taken into consideration.
  • Mast base-area restrictions are unnecessary.
  • Neighbour Notification and advertising costs planning authorities money, and this version of prior approval is similar to full planning permission in terms of processing but with shorter timescales and a lesser fee - with resource implications.
  • Concern over public perception through confusion between prior approval and planning permission.
  • Clearer guidance on grounds for refusal is required.

New PD Rights - Prior Approval For Ground Based Masts (FEE)

Q14 - Do you agree with the proposed fee of £150 for Prior Approval?(Yes - 6 , No - 13 )

Respondent Group Yes No Comments only No answer/ comment Total
Industry 4 1 1 6
Planning Authority 8 1 1 10
Govt & Agencies 4 4
Heritage Bodies 1 2 4 7
Individuals 1 3 1 5
Other 2 4 6
Total 6 13 5 14 38

49. Most who responded to this question did not agree with the suggested fee. Although some felt, across the groups, that the fees were reasonable, acceptable, and affordable, there were many respondents who felt that it did not cover the amount of work involved in assessing and processing the prior approval. This key point links back to previous answers which stated that there is not much difference between the work required for assessing prior approval to that of full planning permission, and therefore that the changes would not remove burdens from the planning authority.

50. There were requests for clarity as to how this figure has been derived. Some felt that before making a decision on the fee level for this type of development it would be prudent to conclude the separate Scottish Government consultation on planning fees.

51. There were queries about the costs of advertising prior approval applications, though the proposals did not include requirements to advertise prior approval applications.

New PD Rights - Ground Based Equipment Housing In Designated Areas

Q15a - What should the Class 67 PD rights be for ground based for ground based equipment housing (and development ancillary to such equipment housing) within the various Class 67 designated areas?

Respondent Group Comments No Answer/ Comment Total
Industry 4 2 6
Planning Authority 9 1 10
Govt & Agencies 2 2 4
Heritage Bodies 7 7
Individuals 2 3 5
Other 2 4 6
Total 26 12 38

Q15b - Please explain your answer, including any proposed conditions and restrictions on such PD rights.

Respondent Group Comments No Answer/ Comment Total
Industry 3 3 6
Planning Authority 7 3 10
Govt & Agencies 2 2 4
Heritage Bodies 7 7
Individuals 2 3 5
Other 1 5 6
Total 22 16 38

52. 'Industry' respondents had fairly consistent views about what equipment housing, such as street cabinets, and ancillary development, such as bollards, fences, hand rails and mountings, should have PD rights in designated areas. Across, and even within, other respondent groups there was no obvious consensus about what might have PD rights and what controls should apply in this regard.

53. 'Industry' felt that equipment housing and ancillary development should have PD rights in all areas, and that in designated areas PD rights should not necessarily be tied to an existing mast or pole or changes to same. There were suggestions for adding to definitions of ancillary development - e.g. generators and their casings and coverings, and brackets and fixings - and one of having prior approval procedures for equipment housing above a certain size in designated areas.

54. Of the 'Planning Authorities', five felt there should be no such PD rights. Another agreed with that, but felt that if it were introduced then a simplified form of prior approval should apply. Other respondents in this respondent group thought there might be scope for some PD rights in some of the designated areas, but with siting and design controls or subject to prior approval.

55. Amongst 'Government and Agency' responses, HES suggest perhaps a modest amount of PD in conservation areas, historic battlefields and historic gardens and designed landscapes, but were concerned about proliferation and cumulative impacts. They felt prior approval and other restrictions would need to apply to address these concerns. SNH were concerned about PD rights for equipment housing on a comparable scale to that applying outside designated areas. They suggested prior approval, but referred to some of their concerns about the considerations and information requirements that would be needed in such a process.

56. 'Heritage Bodies' were split, with some content to see PD rights, others specifying a need for prior approval, others unable to generalise as to what might apply in specific designations. Four respondents indicated that no PD rights should apply in this regard, one of whom thought perhaps some might apply in larger designated areas, but not in conservation areas or word heritage sites.

57. Only one in the 'Individual' category responded, indicating schemes of ancillary development should be specified and then a combined consent regime put in place for that and equipment housing.

58. Respondents in the 'Others' group were generally supportive of whatever was needed for rollout in this particular regard being PD, subject to adequate control being in place where necessary, including a suggestion of an advanced notification procedure allowing comments to be made to the developer.

New PD Rights - Apparatus On Buildings In Designated Areas

Q16 - Do you agree with the proposed increase in Class 67 PD rights to allow up to 5 antenna systems on a building outside Class 67 designated areas? (Yes - 21, No - 4 )

Respondent Group Yes No Comments only No answer/ comment Total
Industry 5 1 6
Planning Authority 8 1 1 10
Govt & Agencies 1 1 2 4
Heritage Bodies 3 2 2 7
Individuals 2 2 1 5
Other 2 4 6
Total 21 4 2 11 38

59. 'Industry' respondents felt that the proposed increase in antenna systems was acceptable, given the differences that exist in current technology and the need to future proof for new technology. They were supportive of further relaxation as this gives more flexibility to deploy additional capacity. Clarity was requested about the 6m height calculation for PD rights for apparatus on buildings - for example, distinguishing between the height of the apparatus and the height to which it exceeds the highest point of the building.

60. Most 'Planning Authority' respondents agreed with this change, albeit with various qualifications. It was felt that the increase is marginal in planning terms, but that this could be important for rural connectivity, and that providing flexibility in this regard could reduce the need for new ground based masts, as buildings outside designated areas that have already been deemed suitable for siting antennas could accommodate more. The qualifications mentioned included: clarification of what constitutes an antenna system; continued conditions on minimising visual impact; restrictions on proliferation on the fronts of blocks of flats; sensitive siting of common infrastructure, a notification system to allow planning authorities a chance to comment to developers; definition of 'setting' and that no PD rights should apply within the setting of various scenic, National Park and designed landscapes.

61. The 'Government and Agencies' category saw agreement from HES, but concerns from SNH about the potential impact on European protected species.

62. Of those 'Heritage Bodies' who commented, three were in favour of these PD rights, with one qualifying this to the effect that the appearance of historical assets is safeguarded. Another of these respondents was concerned about clutter and cumulative impacts, and another found the distinctions between antennas and small antennas confusing and did not want anything on the fronts of buildings.

63. 'Individual' respondents were split, with two supporting the increase and two not - one of whom suggested reducing the PD rights to two antenna systems. Respondents in the 'Other' category agreed with the change.

Q17 - What additional PD rights should apply to apparatus on buildings in Class 67 designated areas? Please explain your answer - including any different restrictions and conditions that might apply.

Respondent Group Comments No Answer/ Comment Total
Industry 5 1 6
Planning Authority 10 10
Govt & Agencies 2 2 4
Heritage Bodies 7 7
Individuals 2 3 5
Other 1 5 6
Total 27 11 38

64. 'Industry' respondents called for simplification of the PD rights for apparatus on buildings. They considered that PD rights should be extended to include at least replacement apparatus on buildings in designated areas, but also scope to allow new apparatus at existing operational sites within designated areas and/ or PD rights for new apparatus with appropriate conditions and restrictions on what was allowed, with some suggesting prior approval for larger amounts of apparatus. For example, parameters could include antenna numbers, height, distance from rooftop edge and this could also vary depending on building height.

65. It was suggested by 'Industry' respondents that small cell antenna could be classed as de minimis [3] and/ or should be PD without requiring prior approval, as they will be needed to roll out 5G and satisfy data demands over the next decade.

66. There was a degree of qualified support from 'Planning Authority' respondents for this sort of PD in designated areas, with only one disagreeing to any change outright. However, different planning authorities offered various suggestions, including:

  • PD rights for antenna on buildings could potentially be extended to those designated areas where visual appearance and impact on heritage assets is not impacted. Controls should remain in respect of conservation areas and the setting of category A listed buildings.
  • PD rights which exist for apparatus in non-designated areas could potentially be applied to SSSI and European sites, where the buildings are not integral to the visual amenity or designation of the area.
  • Like for like replacement could benefit from PD rights.
  • Only minor and small equipment with sensitive location and design and subject to conditions could benefit from PD rights.
  • PD rights for small apparatus on buildings which is not visible from the street and designed to match the roof covering as far as reasonably practicable.

67. Of those in the 'Government and agency' group who responded, while HES saw limited scope for PD rights for such apparatus on buildings in conservation areas, historic battlefields and historic gardens and designed landscapes, they did not support it within the settings of both category A listed buildings and scheduled monuments, which were likely to be more sensitive. SNH recommended prior approval for any such PD rights, but referred to their concerns in previous responses about European protected species, and issues around the information and considerations required making decisions on prior approval.

68. Only one in the 'Individuals' category responded, suggesting allowing an up to 50% increase where there was existing development on site, with a requirement to apply for planning permission for works beyond that.

Q18a - Are any changes required to current PD rights for apparatus on buildings and structures to further support deployment of 'small cell' technology in future? (Yes - 11, No - 4 )

Respondent Group Yes No Comments only No answer/ comment Total
Industry 4 1 1 6
Planning Authority 6 1 2 1 10
Govt & Agencies 4 4
Heritage Bodies 1 6 7
Individuals 1 2 2 5
Other 1 5 6
Total 11 4 4 19 38

Q18b - If yes, what particular PD rights are needed? Please give reasons for your answer.

Respondent Group Comments No Answer/ Comment Total
Industry 5 1 6
Planning Authority 7 3 10
Govt & Agencies 4 4
Heritage Bodies 1 6 7
Individuals 1 4 5
Other 6 6
Total 14 24 38

69. 'Industry' respondents had little to add to their responses at Question 6 on small antennas and Question 7 on apparatus on buildings.

70. The lack of specific information on what this emerging infrastructure would consist of exactly or look like appeared to limit responses from other groups. The majority of responses among 'Planning Authorities' were accepting of PD rights in principle, but two qualified this with reference to needing a greater understanding of what it involved, and the others who responded saying it would need to be small and subject to appropriate limitations. The only other group with significant comments were some of the 'Individuals', two of whom rejected the idea of PD rights in this regard (with no reasons given) and one favouring anything that improved infrastructure and service provision.


Contact

Email: Alan Cameron

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
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