Council not to blame over masts

Bromley Council has recently been on the receiving end of some criticism both directly and in the local press about the way we have been dealing with mobile phone masts.

I, together with all my colleagues, fully appreciate the impact such masts can have on the amenity and feelings of local people. The planning rules and guidance issued by central government are however extremely complicated and undoubtedly confusing; in short they are a mess and I will do my best to explain.

"There are three categories of procedure: "

1. Those that require planning permission; these are dealt with on their planning merits, local residents are consulted and their views taken into account. Only if amenity is not harmed and they are within government safety guidelines do the council contemplate granting them. All too often the council, having refused them, are overruled by government inspectors on appeal.

2. Those that are ‘permitted development’ but require ‘prior approval’ over siting and design. Again local residents are consulted and the above comments apply.

3. Those that are of an allegedly ‘minor nature’ and these do not require council permission. Consultation is not undertaken by the council but this is left to the telecommunications operator.

The recent local controversy concerning two masts with six antennae being erected on the shops/flats in Westmoreland Place falls into the latter category. Unfortunately, the message seems to have been widely circulated in the areas that in some way the council is at fault or is to blame.

For this type of mast, the facts are clear. No application has to be submitted to the council, the council is therefore not in a position to notify local residents, no council consent is required and there is no right of appeal.

The council can only withdraw the ‘permitted development’ entitlement in specified exceptional circumstances which rarely apply.

I do sympathise with local residents but the problem does not lie at the council's door; it is about time the government and telecommunications operators got their act together and started engaging the public.

For my part I will be pressing the government to alter the legislation to bring all such matters under planning control so that the public can be properly consulted.

Councillor George Taylor, Portfolio Holder for the Environment (Bromley Council)

10:06am Friday 8th April 2005


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April 2005

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