Mobile Phone Masts

Deputy Prime Minister written question – answered on 14th June 2005.

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Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Education)

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what his policy is on mobile phone operators sharing telecommunications masts; what steps he has taken to encourage operators to do so; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Minister of State (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Housing and Planning)

Planning Policy Guidance Note 8, Telecommunications" (PPG8), makes clear the expectation that developers should provide evidence to local planning authorities that they have carefully considered the use of existing masts, buildings and other structures before seeking to erect any new mast, regardless of size. The authority may be justified in refusing prior approval or planning permissions if it considers the evidence regarding the consideration of such alternative sites is not satisfactory.

Ministers in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister meet regularly with the Mobile Operators Association to discuss a range of issues including the operators' progress in meeting their 10 commitments which includes a commitment on site sharing. The UK network operators have established a cross-industry Site Share Working Group and have developed a database to facilitate the exchange of information on site sharing opportunities.

On 4 April, it was announced that the Government will be commissioning research to identify the future direction of mobile phone technology and the future need for mast developments. The research will also look at the potential for increased sharing of masts.

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Richard Johnson
Posted on 16 Jun 2005 11:18 pm (Report this annotation)

I'm puzzled by the planning guidance. Why is it better to put the new base station on an existing building or mast, rather than on a new mast or in a new location? What difference does it make?

Simon Preedy
Posted on 20 Jun 2005 10:02 am (Report this annotation)

As I understand it, for Operators to share Masts to reduce the numbers required (possibility of a further 10,000 Masts needed in the UK to 2007 to support new 3G technology?!), we are told that taller and perhaps more visually intrusive Masts will be required (ie: lattice tower Masts as opposed to more of the 10/12 Metre Monopole Masts that Operators tell us they cannot share!

I refer to Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council's Supplementary Planning Guidance, which was implemented in April 2004 following their Telecoms Inquiry (see: - Telecoms section). Point 7.2 states:

“In residential areas, the Council, Operators AND RESIDENTS need to work together to determine the best approach - whether there is an appropriate site where a larger Mast could be relatively discretely located [for Operators to share] rather than many smaller Masts... In rural areas, the emphasis will continue to be on mast sharing to minimise visual intrusion. However, if there is no existing Mast in the area of search or mast sharing is not practical or visually acceptable, alternatives such as site sharing or alternaive new sites may be appropriate"

Richard Johnson
Posted on 20 Jun 2005 10:44 pm (Report this annotation)

Oh I see. The guidance to encourage mast sharing is purely to help reduce "visual intrusion". Sounds like putting the cart before the horse. Why not have guidance that simply says the siting of base stations should seek to avoid unnecessary visual intrusion?

I guess I must be the only person who rather likes the look of them. But then I grew up thinking that the radomes at Menwith Hill and the television mast at Emley Moor were all rather wonderful things.

Simon Preedy
Posted on 21 Jun 2005 10:16 am (Report this annotation)


I guess what is "visually intrusive" to some may not be "visually intrusive" to others (!) - as you said, "you rather like the look of the them"!

I think B&DBC SPG has it right! That in residential areas: "... Council, Operators & residents NEED to work together to determine the best approach...".

Mast locations are governed by Operator's cell search areas. I suspect there will rarely be a total 100% agreement as to where Masts should go (and what style) in any densely populated residential community! Having said that, there have been some in residential areas of Basingstoke that received NO objections from the community where the Operator, Council, elected representatives & residents worked together to find the best possible location for all concerned.