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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 July, 2004, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
Call for phone mast siting reform
Phone mast protest
Campaigners fear the mast may endanger children at local schools
The planning system governing the siting of mobile phone masts should be radically overhauled, a committee of peers and MPs has said.

Phone firms should be made to seek full planning permission for mobile phone masts and base stations, the All-Party Parliamentary Mobile Group has said.

Currently masts less then 15m can be constructed without express permission.

The system governing the siting of such masts was biased in favour industry, committee chairman Phil Willis said.

Consultation

The committee's main recommendation was that the current "permitted development" rights which allow the firms to put up masts without having to obtain full planning permission should be revoked.

Currently, firms can assume permission has been granted and begin construction on masts if the phone firm has not heard back from a local authority after 56 days.

But mobile phone firms are obliged to consult with local communities and local authorities fully under a self-imposed code of practice.

This did not appear to be happening, the committee found.

"The voluntary code, known as the 10 commitments, which the industry has put in place does not appear to be working sufficiently. It is not being observed, " Mr Willis told BBC News Online.

Perceived risks

This fostered an air of suspicion and mistrust between the general public, local authorities and phone companies, he said.

The committee argued that if formal consultation methods were adopted fears arising out of health concerns would be reduced.

Local councils were also not doing enough to protect the public interest, Mr Willis said.

It was not good enough that many local authorities said they did not have the expertise to challenge applications, Mr Willis said.

He recommended a group of experts on mobile phone technology be set up for use by local authorities which have to decide on planning permission.

Phil Willis MP
Phil Willis MP said firms' code of practice was not being observed

The committee also said a joint body should be established between the government and the industry featuring representatives from local authorities and the regulator.

This body would lay down and monitor the consultation process and ensure firms were meeting the 10 commitments.

The all-party committee launched its inquiry in March 2004 and has heard evidence from a range of industry, government, local authority and community witnesses.

It has made 19 recommendations in its report published on Tuesday.

"This represents a huge challenge for government, the industry and local authorities and would, if implemented represent a major step forward for the industry and residents alike," Mr Willis said.




SEE ALSO:
Campaigners stop phone mast work
14 Jul 04  |  South Yorkshire
Mast demonstrators challenge bid
05 Jun 04  |  South Yorkshire
Concerns raised over phone mast
17 Jun 04  |  Leicestershire


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