Telecommunications Masts in Parishes

Oral Answers to Questions — Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons on 25th July 2019.

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Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

If the Church of England will expedite the process by which parishes apply to host telecommunications masts.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Chair, Draft Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill Committee

Following on from my right hon. Friend’s question to me last month, I raised these concerns with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and I have met with BT, EE and some of the small providers, including one from my right hon. Friend’s constituency, to discuss the challenges of providing reliable rural communications infrastructure.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

Will my right hon. Friend also have a go at the Ministry of Justice and ask it to put sufficient resource into the tribunal system, so that case law can be expedited to make the new telecommunications code work?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Chair, Draft Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill Committee

I absolutely say yes to that. Perhaps my right hon. Friend would like to join me in going to meet the new occupants of the positions concerned. It appears clear that the new digital code tends to favour large providers, and the consequence of their preference for using existing infrastructure is a greater digital divide.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

Churches, by their very nature, are historically and architecturally important, and new telecommunications masts could have an impact on buildings. What is being done to preserve these buildings and ensure that their architectural and historical value is retained?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Chair, Draft Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill Committee

That is a very important question, because the Church of England has put its entire infrastructure at the disposal of providers, so that we can, using towers and spires, beam a signal into notspots. Historic England is quite comfortable about listed buildings carrying small signal boosters, which are not intrusive.