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Friday, 24 November, 2000, 13:11 GMT
New curbs on mobile masts
Phone mast close to residential area
Masts sited near homes have caused controversy
Plans have been announced to tighten the regulations on siting mobile phone masts in Scotland.

Environment Minister Sam Galbraith is proposing that all new ground-based masts should be subject to full planning control.

Antennae taller than four metres - the size of a double-decker bus - which are located on buildings would be governed by the same system.

Mr Galbraith said: "By subjecting the proposals to full planning control, the 'neighbour notification' procedures that allow the public to make representations to the planning authority are triggered.

Sam Galbraith
Sam Galbraith: "Festoon" concern
"It is imperative that the public has a say on these developments.

"We need to curb the worst excesses of installations on buildings," Mr Galbraith told the Royal Town Planning Institute's annual conference in Aberdeen.

"Some rooftops are festooned with unsightly equipment and planning authorities need to be able to control this."

A spokesman for the Federation of Electronics Industry, which represents mobile phone companies, said: "We are concerned that extending full planning would not solve all the present controversies.

'False expectations'

"We believe the move may raise false expectations with the public that they are being given a veto on the planning process, which they are not.

"We are also concerned that full planning may not be appropriate as it is not designed to take into account health risks."

The proposals are set out in a consultation paper issued by the Scottish Executive.

It is in response to the inquiry report by the Scottish Parliament's transport and environment committee's on telecommunications developments, published in March.

The main recommendations in the consultation paper include:

  • No more than eight masts will be allowed on buildings over 15m without planning permission

  • No more than four on smaller buildings

  • All new installations in conservation areas will be subject to full planning controls

  • Alterations to existing masts that increase the height or width by more than two metres will need planning permission.

Mr Galbraith added: "I also realise that operators need to keep pace with demand.

"We cannot underestimate the economic and social benefits to Scotland of a modern telecommunications infrastructure."

Protest against mobile mast in Burrelton
Protests have sprung up around Scotland
There has been a series of protests around Scotland by people opposed to the siting of mobile phone masts in their community.

Their arguments have been based on safety fears and the impact on the landscape.

An independent report commissioned by the UK Government and released in May said there did not appear to be a general risk to the health of people living near base stations.

But the report's author, Sir Willliam Stewart, stressed that gaps in knowledge were sufficient to justify "a precautionary approach".

More than 20 million people in Britain, a third of the population, have a mobile phone - and that number is set to expand rapidly.

The phone companies say that to provide a high quality service they need to erect more and more masts.

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See also:

27 Oct 00 | Scotland
Villagers' mobile mast pledge
11 Sep 00 | Scotland
Phone mast regulations tightened
25 Aug 00 | Scotland
Tighter controls on phone masts
15 Aug 00 | Scotland
Victory for phone mast protesters
11 May 00 | Scotland
Planning change call for phone masts
11 Nov 99 | Scotland
Public plea for phone masts ban
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