27 July 2018 by Artan Llabjani

Is planning permission required for the installation of telecommunications equipment?

Getting permission to position a telecommunications mast on a property was, until fairly recently, straightforward.  Planning permission was rarely required as masts and other apparatus fell within what was called “permitted development”.

In December 2017 a new Code became law. The Electronic Communications Code was designed to make it easier for network operators to install and maintain apparatus such as masts, exchanges and cabinets on public and private land.

However, a recent High Court case concerning a planning challenge, decided after the implementation of the Code, suggests that the Courts may adopt a stricter approach. The Code may not therefore be as helpful for network operators or others who want to install apparatus, as was first thought.

The challenge arose in the context of the installation of a number of “pole mounts”, used to support antennae which had been installed on a building without planning permission – supposedly relying on ‘permitted development’.  The Court decided that the central support poles were in fact ‘masts’ because they supported antennae which transmitted and received radio waves.  In addition because they were within 20 metres of the highway express, planning permission was required from the Council.

As a result of the case any series of radio antennae mounted on top of a building will constitute “radio masts” and as such require planning permission.  They fall outside of permitted development and the Code appears not to help.

Landlords and tenants should now be aware that when operators request permission to mount equipment on their buildings, the size and composition of the equipment should be meticulously checked in order to see whether planning permission is required and whether the Code applies.

If you have any questions about planning permission, the Code or telecommunication apparatus or require advice about any commercial property issues please contact the head of our commercial property team, Artan Llabjani (artanllabjani@boltburdon.co.uk)

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