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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
Further Comments - Question 21

32 page PDF

415.4kB

Further Comments - Question 21

Q21 - Do you have any further comments on any other aspects of the proposed Class 67 PD rights?

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

79. The 'Industry' responses were split. MNO respondents re-iterated their calls for simplification and increases in PD rights. They also raised the issue of PD rights for access tracks to mast sites, which they saw as likely to be an increasing issue where rollout extends to more remote sites.

80. On the other hand, the two 'Industry' respondents providing independent infrastructure stated their approach was better - larger but fewer masts with more sharing of apparatus. Neither thought PD rights for new masts was the way to go, with their experience indicating applications for planning permission for masts was not a barrier to rollout, and one specifically rejecting the idea that partial or total not-spots (areas with no mobile coverage at all) was due to a lack of PD rights for masts - citing other issues around commercial and other regulatory issues and access to power supplies and backhaul connections. One was concerned that PD rights and prior approval for new masts would create a glass ceiling as to what size of mast was considered acceptable, while the other was concerned this approach could re-awaken public concern about masts.

81. There was a suggestion of a different approach to allow PD rights for any change to existing sites subject to just the general conditions on minimising visual impact and removing redundant equipment - based on experience of upgrading terrestrial TV and radio networks, where the ability to obtain the necessary planning permissions in 100% of cases was cited as indicating a lack of need for an application for planning permission.

82. The three 'Planning Authority' responses covered different issues: one wanted greater emphasis on sharing infrastructure and more justification from operators around site selection; another wanted more guidance and a consolidation of the legislation on PD rights generally; and the third suggested prior approval be used for PD rights for larger development and for development in designated areas.

83. MOD raised the issue of safeguarded areas, calling for new masts and increases in the height or change in the location of existing ground based masts to be subject to prior approval and consultation with the relevant authority responsible for the safeguarded site. They also wanted guidance in Scotland to reflect that in England as regards issues relating to these safeguarded sites.

84. SNH was concerned about cumulative effects and felt prior approval may not be the best way to address these. They wanted guidance and the Electronic Communications Code to include consideration of cumulative effects.

85. Of the 'Heritage Bodies' who responded, the National Trust for Scotland wanted the requirements in the Electronic Communications Code (Conditions and Restrictions) Regulations 2003 to consult them on certain proposals reflected in the PD rights. They were also concerned about cumulative effects and the lack of reference to conservation areas and national scenic areas (note: these are included in the list of designated areas discussed in the consultation paper).

86. Another such body wanted notification requirements to include a statement that the proposal would not significantly affect a Natura site (i.e. European sites) and for guidance to bring out the requirements of the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. While a third wanted a model developed to cover connectivity in remote and rural areas, so that such areas are not marginalised.

87. With the two 'Other' responses, one was concerned about Scotland falling behind the UK and was supportive of changes promoting rollout of infrastructure. The other gave a general statement supporting rollout, but wanted: protection against inappropriate development; for all stakeholders to be able to comment to the planning authority on proposals; and account taken of the apparent shift in power to operators from landowners in the Digital Economy Bill in the UK Parliament.

Q22 - Do you have any comments or information relevant to the Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA) aspects of this issue? If so, please elaborate.

Respondent Group Comments No Answer/ Comment Total
Industry 6 6
Planning Authority 2 8 10
Govt & Agencies 2 2 4
Heritage Bodies 4 3 7
Individuals 1 4 5
Other 6 6
Total 9 29 38

88. One of the national park authorities felt the potential cumulative impacts of the proposal on the special qualities that underpin the designation of national parks should be assessed via SEA. The other national park authority felt reference needed to be made to the screening for environmental impact of specific development proposals in relevant designated areas.

89. HES welcomed the undertaking to keep the issue of SEA under review and referred to the potential negative impacts on the historic environment of some of the proposals being explored as indicated in their response. SNH felt the proposals discussed in the consultation would likely have significant environmental effects and so consideration should be given to SEA of the legislative amendments.

90. Several of the 'Heritage Bodies' indicated the potential impacts of these developments in designated areas indicated SEA of the proposals was required. One did not, though their answers generally were qualified with the need to have adequate procedural safeguards in place around PD.

Q23 - Do you agree with the conclusions of the partial Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment ( BRIA), in particular regarding the anticipated benefits of the proposed changes? Do you have any further comments or information to support the final BRIA?

Respondent Group Comments No Answer/ Comment Total
Industry 3 3 6
Planning Authority 6 4 10
Govt & Agencies 4 4
Heritage Bodies 2 5 7
Individuals 1 4 5
Other 1 5 6
Total 13 25 38

91. One 'Industry' respondent agreed with the partial BRIA and recommended option 2a), subject to the caveats in their response e.g. changes to the proposed prior approval procedures. The other two Industry responses simply referred to the benefits to businesses and consumers from improved mobile coverage.

92. Four of the 'Planning Authority' respondents disagreed with the partial BRIA and felt the costs and complexity associated with prior approval procedure, which looks increasingly the same as a planning application, was not being taken into account. Another thought costs to planning authorities should decrease with PD but felt the administration costs in dealing with PD were underestimated. One Planning Authority agreed with the partial BRIA.

93. One of the 'Heritage Bodies' felt that the benefits to the businesses and individuals of better connectivity were not considered, but nor were the costs to businesses, residents and visitors and the wider economy of poorly sited and designed equipment.

94. One of the 'Individuals' indicated support for anything improving digital communications and one of the 'Other' respondents agreed with the partial BRIA.

Q24 - In relation to the partial Equality Impact Assessment, please tell us about any potential impacts, either positive or negative, you feel the proposals in this consultation document may have on any particular groups of people.

Respondent Group Comments No Answer/ Comment Total
Industry 6 6
Planning Authority 4 6 10
Govt & Agencies 4 4
Heritage Bodies 7 7
Individuals 5 5
Other 1 5 6
Total 5 33 38

Q25 - In relation to the partial Equality Impact Assessment, please tell us about what potential there may be within these proposals to advance equality of opportunity between different groups and to foster good relations between different groups.

Respondent Group Comments No Answer/ Comment Total
Industry 6 6
Planning Authority 3 7 10
Govt & Agencies 4 4
Heritage Bodies 7 7
Individuals 5 5
Other 6 6
Total 3 35 38

95. One 'Planning Authority' disagreed with the reference to certain 'Age' groups not being able to take advantage of improved services through better infrastructure, as the reasons for this are not related to infrastructure per se.

96. Two of the authorities were concerned that a dilution of planning controls and use of prior approval could reduce stakeholder engagement in the consenting process. Another authority thought the changes might help reduce inequalities between people in remoter areas, who have less access to digital services than people in urban areas. One authority though more connectivity might lead to slower broadband speeds and potentially more 'online abuse'.

97. Another 'Planning Authority' thought more information should be made available to the public about the role of infrastructure in providing connectivity and services and about the guidelines on radio frequency emissions produced by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection.

98. One of the 'Other' respondents felt the poor might not be able to benefit from any improved services, but they did not think they would be disproportionately affected by the negative impacts of the proposals compared to other groups.


Contact

Email: Alan Cameron

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG