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5 November 2012
Residents and local authorities could be left powerless to have a say on where mobile phone masts are sited under new government proposals to deregulate planning laws.
The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, is warning that a clause in the Growth and Infrastructure Bill aimed at increasing access to broadband, could have “alarming implications” and create an unintended “phone mast free-for-all.
The Bill, which is set for its second reading in the House of Commons today (5 November), extends the planning deregulation proposed for broadband to anything connected to telecoms. This means that it could lead to local authorities and residents being denied their right to have a say on where phone masts in their areas go.
Councils are concerned that the amendment could give a green light to the unchecked building of phone masts near schools and beauty spots and people's homes.
The LGA is now calling on Government to either revise the amendment or spell out how they will ensure it will not be used to deregulate the siting of mobile phone masts.
The proposal forms part of an amendment in the Bill to allow for the installation of broadband street cabinets without the need for prior approval.
Councils believe that residents should be entitled to have a say on the location of six foot high broadband junction boxes.
Cllr Mike Jones, Chairman of the LGA's Environment and Housing Board, said:
“These proposals go far beyond government's previously announced policy of helping the rollout of broadband and the implications are alarming.
“We are concerned that this will open the door to a mobile phone mast free-for-all where giant masts could start cropping up in beauty spots, historic locations and next to schools. People would be left powerless to object and councils would be left powerless to intervene.
“Whether there are plans to install a giant phone mast by a school or a six foot high humming broadband junction box outside someone's window, people should be able to have a say.
“Local authorities are as committed as government to increase access to broadband across the country but also need to have the powers to ensure that local areas are not spoilt. Councils want to be able to work with network providers to ensure local areas get the best possible coverage in a way that residents are happy with.”