Telecommunications

Telecommunications development in Worcester

Worcester City Council is the local planning authority (LPA) responsible for making decisions on the siting and design of telecommunications equipment in the city. We are keen to encourage a joint working approach to telecommunications development, to involve everyone in a process that ultimately raises the level of consensus about the type and location of telecommunications equipment. We aim to ensure that the maximum amount of information about the possible location of telecommunications equipment is made public and debated as soon as is practicable.

These pages provide information on current telecommunications installations within the Borough and operators’ roll-out plans for the coming year. It also provides information on local and national telecommunications policies.

Local and National Planning Policy for Telecommunications

In determining all applications for telecommunications installations, the City Council is required to consider its decisions in the light of site-specific issues, such as siting, design, effect on the street scene and highway safety. The City is also required to make its decisions in accordance with nationally established policy and the specific telecommunications policy in the City of Worcester Local Plan.

National Policy

National policy is included in Planning Policy Statement No. 8.  which gives guidance on planning for telecommunications development - including radio masts and towers, antennas of all kinds, radio equipment housing, public call boxes, cabinets, poles and overhead wires. It was published in August 2001.

For many people there is concern about the health implications of telecommunications installations. There is clearly a scientific debate about this point, which planning officers and members responsible for telecommunications applications need to be aware of but it is important to note that consideration of health issues need to be in accordance with paragraphs 29 to 31 of PPG8:

Health Considerations

29. Health considerations and public concern can in principle be material considerations in determining applications for planning permission and prior approval. Whether such matters are material in a particular case is ultimately a matter for the courts. It is for the decision-maker (usually the local planning authority) to determine what weight to attach to such considerations in any particular case.

30. However, it is the Government’s firm view that the planning system is not the place for determining health safeguards. It remains central Government’s responsibility to decide what measures are necessary to protect public health. In the Government’s view, if a proposed mobile phone base station meets the ICNIRP guidelines for public exposure it should not be necessary for a local planning authority, in processing an application for planning permission or prior approval, to consider further the health aspects and concerns about them.

31. The Government’s acceptance of the precautionary approach recommended by the Stewart Group’s report " Mobile Phones and Health ” is limited to the specific recommendations in the Group’s report and the Government’s response to them. The report does not provide any basis for precautionary actions beyond those already proposed. In the Government’s view, local planning authorities should not implement their own precautionary policies e.g. by way of imposing a ban or moratorium on new telecommunications development or insisting on minimum distances between new telecommunications development and existing development.

Guidance from Government has been published in the Code of Best Practice on Mobile Phone Network Development 

Local Policy

The Worcestershire Structure Plan  and the City of Worcester Local Plan are the two local documents that form the Development Plan. Both have policies regarding telecommunications installations.

The Structure Plan gives a broad outline of policy objectives in its policy D.44:

Development proposals for telecommunications systems should normally be allowed where they satisfy the requirements of other policies in the Structure Plan.

Consideration should be given in the first instance to the opportunity for using existing structures and all applications for new structures will be required to demonstrate why the use of existing structures or buildings, including sharing existing masts, cannot satisfy their requirements. In all cases installations should be removed when no longer required.

The following Development Plans and material considerations are relevant to how a decision is made on telecommunication developments.

The Local Plan has the following policy regarding telecommunications installations:

POLICY BE43 TELECOMMUNICATIONS

DEVELOPMENT PROPOSALS FOR TELECOMMUNICATIONS INSTALLATIONS SHOULD AVOID SKYLINE AND RIDGE LINE LOCATIONS, and, in particular, should avoid damage to the appearance of LISTED BUILDINGS AND THEIR SETTINGS, CONSERVATION AREAS AND RESIDENTIAL AREAS. NEW INSTALLATIONS SHOULD BE LOCATED IN THE FOLLOWING LOCATIONS AND MANNER (IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE):

1. ON SITES AT

· THE MEB BUILDING, BLACKPOLE ROAD;

· KING GEORGE V PLAYING FIELDS MAST;

· former ronkswood hospital site and district general hospital, NEWTOWN ROAD;

· ELGAR HOUSE, SHRUB HILL;

· PIEREAU OFFICE BUILDING, KAYS, BRANSFORD ROAD;

2. IN INDUSTRIAL AREAS;

3. AS UNOBTRUSIVE ADDITIONS TO, OR REPLACEMENT OF, EXISTING STRUCTURES;

4. BY USE OF MICROCELL ANTENNAs

5. WHERE OTHER ALTERNATIVES ARE NOT AVAILABLE IN OTHER LOCATIONS WELL SCREENED BY OTHER STRUCTURES AND/OR EXISTING TREES.

IN ALL CASES:-

a) APPLICATIONS FOR NEW STRUCTURES WILL BE REQUIRED TO DEMONSTRATE WHY THE USE OF EXISTING BUILDINGS AND STRUCTURES CANNOT SATISFY THEIR REQUIREMENTS.

b) APPLICATIONS FOR NEW GROUND BASED MASTS SHOULD BE ACCOMPANIED BY SIGNIFICANT TREE PLANTING PROPOSALS WHERE APPROPRIATE.

c) INSTALLATIONS SHOULD BE REMOVED WHEN NO LONGER REQUIRED.

d) INSTALLATIONS SHOULD DEMONSTRATE COMPLIANCE WITH RECOGNISED SAFETY STANDARDS FOR NON-IONIZING RADIATION.

Guide to Telecommunications Application Types

In undertaking installations the telecommunications operators have to comply with the requirements of Part 24 of the Town and Country Planning General Permitted Development Order which establishes whether a proposal requires full planning permission, “prior approval” or is permitted development.

Licence notifications

Where the installation of telecommunications apparatus are classed as Permitted Development, a planning application is not required, and no consultation is carried out by the City Council. However, under other statutory requirements, operators do have to give the City Council 28 days notice of their intention to install such equipment, and allow comment. However, the City Council has no control over this type of development.

This includes alteration and maintenance of existing antennas adding antennas to existing roof top installations, and other, minor developments.

Applications for Notification of Prior Approval

These notifications have to be determined within 56 days of receipt. If the City Council does not respond within 56 days the operator has the right to install the apparatus irrespective of the Council’s views on the proposal. When dealing with these notifications, the City Council is only able to consider the siting and appearance of the installation, and not the principle of the development, or any other related issues, as this has already been agreed by legislation. We have undertaken to consult widely with neighbours and elected representatives in the area on such applications.

These types of developments include new rooftop installations, and masts under 15m in height.

Even with a recommendation for approval these applications will only be presented to Planning Committee if a member of the public has requested that they wish to speak at the meeting when making representations or if an elected member has requested that the application be determined by Planning Committee. If the deadline for comments has been reached without either request the application will be determined under the City Council’s delegation powers.

Applications for full planning permission

These applications are dealt with in the same way as other planning applications, and all material considerations can be considered.

This includes masts over 15m in height, and larger installations such as large ancillary equipment cabinets.

The process for determination is the same as for Prior Approvals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

What is a base station?

A

Radio base stations enable mobile phones to work. Base stations receive signals from mobiles - which are low-powered two-way radios - and transmit them to other mobile or fixed networks. Commonly called 'masts', their antennas can be attached to a freestanding mast or existing structures such as roof tops or water towers.

Q

Why do we need them?

A

Without base stations, calls cannot be made. If base stations are too far away from each other, holes in coverage appear and calls are interrupted 'or dropped' when mobile users are on the move.

Q

How many are there and will this number increase?

A

There are currently about 47,000 base station sites in the UK, with two thirds of these on existing buildings or structures. To keep up with the massive growth in mobile phone use and the introduction of advanced third generation (3G) services, (there are over 65 million mobile phone subscriptions in the UK, compared to 9 million seven years ago), more base stations will have to be built. It is possible that the number will rise to 50,000 by 2007.

Q

Why do we need more?

A

Radio waves only travel a certain distance and base stations can only carry a limited number of calls at the one time. To meet increasingly high demand in busy areas, more base stations are needed.

Q

Why do they have to be outside my house?

A

Base stations are built where customers need coverage. They are usually placed about 200-500m apart in towns and 2-5km apart in rural areas, but operators do all they can to ensure they are sensitively placed. Under new siting procedures called "The Ten Commitments", operators have put in place procedures to consult local planners and local communities before a planning application is lodged.

Q

Why can't you share the mast down the road?

A

Operators share masts whenever they can, but this is not always possible. Site sharing means more than one antenna is on a mast, making it taller and more visually intrusive. In some cases, the community and local planners may prefer several smaller masts rather than one large one. Also, different radio frequencies used by separate operators may interfere with each other and prevent site sharing.

Q

Why can't base stations be more attractive?

A

Where possible, operators try to prevent masts from blotting the landscape. Slim line versions with a smaller head frames are being introduced. They can be painted to blend in with their surroundings, disguised as trees or placed on street lamps. Base station antennas can also be put on structures like roof tops, high voltage electricity pylons or large radio communication masts.

Q

Why are antennas hidden behind street signs, shop fronts etc?

A

Microcells - tiny radio base station antennas - help operators meet high customer demand in busy areas. They are usually mounted at street level on external walls, lamp posts or neon shop signs and can often be disguised as building features. Microcells are typically about 300m-1km apart and have lower radio wave outputs than larger base stations.

Q

What can I do if I don't like where a base station is going to be built?

A

Your first point of call should be the local planning authority, which represents the local community and is kept up to date about mast development by network operators. On top of this, each operator has pledged to respond to enquiries and complaints about radio base stations within 10 working days. Contact numbers for operators are:

  • O2: 01753 564 390
  • T-mobile: 0870 321 6047
  • Orange: 0800 783 5021
  • Vodafone: 0163 567 7706
  • 3: 0845 604 300

Q

Who do the operators consult when planning a new base station?

A

It depends on the type of development. The operators want to strike a proper balance between access to popular mobile services in the UK and the need to be environmentally and socially responsible when building the networks that support them. To this end, clear procedures are in place for consulting the public, community groups, schools, parish councils or local planning authorities about proposed mobile base station sites.

Q

Is living near a base station bad for my health?

A

In December 2003, the NRPB's Independent Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR) published a report that concluded that exposure levels from living near to mobile phone base stations are extremely low, and the overall evidence indicates that they are unlikely to pose a risk to health. The full report is available at  this link Similarly, the World Health Organisation in its ‘Base stations and wireless technologies’ fact sheet issued in May 2006, concludes that: “Considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.” The full text of the fact sheet is available here.

Q

What about cancer clusters being reported near base stations?

A

Media or anecdotal reports of cancer clusters around mobile phone base stations have heightened public concern. The World Health Organisation in its ‘Base stations and wireless technologies’ fact sheet issued in May 2006, state that: “It should be noted that geographically, cancers are unevenly distributed among any population. Given the widespread presence of base stations in the environment, it is expected that possible cancer clusters will occur near base stations merely by chance. Moreover, the reported cancers in these clusters are often a collection of different types of cancer with no common characteristics and hence unlikely to have a common cause.” The full text of the fact sheet is available here.

Q

Then why is more research being conducted?

A

Although concluding that mobile phones and base stations do not adversely effect human health, the Stewart Report called for a precautionary approach until gaps in scientific knowledge are filled. The operators backed this call and are now funding half of a three-year £7.4 million independent research programme into mobile phones and health. Details of the programme can be found here.

Q

Who monitors the levels of radio frequency emissions from base stations?

A

The Office of Communications – Ofcom, (previously the Radiocommunications Agency) since December 2000 has been conducting random audits in the UK to confirm that radio frequency emissions from mobile phone base stations comply with public exposure guidelines, which are set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation (ICNIRP). These audits are ongoing. So far, the surveys of base stations have shown than even maximum levels of exposure are tiny fractions of the guidelines. More information can be found on the Ofcom website .

The National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), now part of the Health Protection Agency (HPA), has also carried out some measurement surveys of radio frequency emissions in the vicinity of mobile phone base stations and other transmitters. More information can be found on the HPA website

The Commission for Communications Regulation (Comreg) is the licensing authority for the use of the radio frequency spectrum in Ireland and it also has an on-going programme of base station audits. Similar results have been found to those of Ofcom. More information can be found on the Comreg website.

Q

What is 3G technology?

A

Third Generation (3G) is a term used to describe the next generation of mobile phone systems. The advanced technology includes internet access and the ability to view video footage. 2G, also known as GSM, is the current second generation technology. For further information see 3G Fact Sheet. For an in-depth technical briefing on how General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) and Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) systems work, please see the MOA's report.

Q

If more than one operator is sharing or is co-located on a site/mast, are the emission levels increased?

A

Generally, yes, but not by very much. A shared site is likely to have higher emission levels than a single operator site, although each operator might be transmitting at different power levels, different frequencies and different antenna heights and directions. Shared sites are checked and certified for compliance with the international health and safety public exposure guidelines (ICNIRP) and the resulting emission levels will still be many times below them.

Since 2000, Ofcom has undertaken more than 500 random audits of base station emissions; some of these sites were shared or co-located. The measurements from these audits show that emission levels from base stations are typically small fractions of the international health and safety public exposure guidelines (ICNIRP).

Q

When new 3G antennas are added to an existing base station site/mast, will the emissions increase?

A

As with a shared site, the emissions will increase slightly but the resultant levels will still be a small fraction of the ICNIRP health and safety public exposure guidelines. As an example, a recent site adapted for 3G by an operator went from being 830 times below the guidelines to 770 times below

Q

What about the cumulative emissions from base stations that are closely distributed, for example a number of operators put up antennas on the floodlight pylons of a sports club?

A

All co-located sites, including closely distributed masts, are included within the process used by the network operators to ensure compliance with the international health and safety public exposure guidelines (ICNIRP). As a result of radiowaves decreasing rapidly with distance, (as an approximation, each doubling of distance reduces the field by a quarter), antenna structures can be within a few metres of each other and areas where the public can gain free and reasonable access will still remain well below the ICNIRP health and safety public exposure guidelines.

Q

How can the operators be so sure that shared sites and co-locations are compliant with the ICNIRP health and safety public exposure guidelines?

A

The network operators design safety zones around the antennas at shared base station sites assuming worst-case conditions, i.e. maximum power levels. In practice, the cumulative power levels are a lot less due to a number of factors including the orientation and height of the antennas and variations in different operators’ mobile phone traffic levels at any given time.

Q

If I still have concerns regarding the cumulative emission levels from a co-located or shared site what can I do?

A

Ofcom has been auditing radiowave emission levels from base station sites since 2000 and if approached, will consider carrying out a measurement audit of the emissions from a base station site. A request can be made to Ofcom via their website here.

Worcester City telecommunications applications register

This document is a register of all telecommunications related planning applications received since 1992, including those from the mobile telephone network operators as licensed by government.

It is intended as an aid, in order to gain an overall picture of the telecommunications development which has been allowed within the City, in line with the principles contained in PPG8. The information is as correct and up to date as possible, however the City Council take no responsibility for any incorrect or missing information, or its use out of context.

For further details of any applications listed, note the reference number and use the planning applications search facility to gain further details of the application.

Worcester City telecommunications applications register

 

Roll out map

Every Autumn, the five commercial mobile telephone operators provide the Local Planning Authority (LPA) with information showing the areas within the City where they have a need to site further telecommunications equipment within the coming year.

This information is made available in order that communities and elected members can be involved with discussions regarding siting and design of equipment with operators prior to the submission of applications to the LPA.

It should be noted that the maps indicate areas of search for new sites, and not specific locations, and thus the precise sitting of equipment can be influenced at an early stage in the site identification process.

For further details regarding each search area, the operators concerned should be contacted directly, and their details are provided on the roll out plans.

Click here to view roll out plans.

Click here to view map showing installations and proposals across the City.

Contacts

City Council

Queries relating to permitted development/planning applications:

Alan Coleman, tel: 01905 722523

email: planning@worcester.gov.uk

Queries relating to policies:

David Hobbs, tel: 01905 722528

email: planning@worcester.gov.uk

Government departments and industry groups

Department of Health (DoH) leaflet on mobile phones and base stations:

Department of Health Information leaflets and research strategy on mobile phones

Communities and Local Governement website on planning:

http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1144593

Office of Communications (OFCOM) which has taken over from the Radio Communications Agency, for scientific information and base station audit results: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/

www.ofcom.org.uk

All Party Parliamentary Mobile Group:

http://www.apcomms.org.uk

Mobile Operators Association (MOA) is the industry umbrella group representing operators

Russell Square House, 10-12 Russell Square, London, WC1B 5EE

tel: 0207 331 2015 or 0207 331 2047

http://www.mobilemastinfo.com/

National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), the government’s statutory advisers on radiological protection matters

tel: 01235 831600

http://www.hpa.org.uk/radiation/

Federation of the Electronics Industry

tel: 0207 331 2000 or 0207 331 2015 or 0207 331 2029

Campaign groups

Mast Action UK (MAUK)

Mast Action UK (MAUK), PO Box 312, Hertfordshire, EN7 5ZE

http://www.mastaction.co.uk/

Campaign for Planning Sanity

97 Spa Crescent, Little Hulton, Greater Manchester, M38 9TU

tel: 0161 278 3355

email: info@planningsanity.co.uk

http://www.planningsanity.co.uk/

Mast Sanity

tel: 08704 322377

email: webmaster@mastsanity.org

http://www.mastsanity.org/

Powerwatch

http://www.powerwatch.org.uk/

Telecommunications operators

Andrew Tildesley, 3

Birmingham Business Park, Solihull Parkway, Birmingham B37 7YN.

andrew.tildesley@three.co.uk

Phone: 0121 788 5734.  Mobile: 07782 326788

 

Angela Johnson, O2

c/o home address: 73 High Street, Church Stretton SY6 6BY

Phone: 01759 274118

Mobile: 07860 727405

 

Gordon Simmons, T-Mobile

Hatfield Business Park, Building 4, Hatfield AL10 7BW

Gordon.Simmons@t-mobile.co.uk

Phone: 020 8214 5018

Mobile: 07957 583394

 

John Carwardine, T-Mobile

Hatfield Business Park, Building 4, Hatfield AL10 7BW

john.cardwardinwe@t-mobile.co.uk

Mobile: 07930 430893

 

Jon Chown, T-Mobile

jon.chown@t-mobile.co.uk

 

Paul Barton, 3

Birmingham Business Park, Solihull Parkway, Birmingham B37 7YN

paul.barton@three.co.uk

Mobile: 07782 323147

 

Time Parker, 3

Phone: 0131 2255722