BBC TRANSMISSION - BROOKMANS PARK TRANSMISSION STATION

FUTURE OPERATIONAL REQUIREMENTS MASTERPLAN 1996

1 INTRODUCTION

This statement has been prepared on behalf of BBC Transmission following a dialogue with Welwyn Hatfield District Council in accordance with Government Guidance as described in PPG8: Telecommunications.

A masterplan is described which defines the future operational requirements of BBC Transmission at Brookmans Park. This demonstrates the proposed future of the site and defines the operational areas and the phasing of their development.

In section 2 we describe the future operational requirements for Brookmans Park. In section 3 we outline the technical benefits of the site whilst in section 4 we explore the planning policy background effecting the site. Overall conclusions are drawn in section 5.

2 FUTURE OPERATIONAL REQUIREMENTS MASTERPLAN

This statement is supported by plans NE1030/1 (NOT ENCLOSED) and 3. Plan 1 shows the existing situation and Plan 3 is the future operational masterplan which shows proposed landscaping which defines three sites with potential for future operational use. In drawing up the plan careful consideration has been given to two factors:-

i) the future operational requirements of the BBC;

ii) the planning policy framework.

The former are considered in this section, the latter are discussed in section 4.0.

Existing Operations

The Brookmans Park site has traditionally been associated with mast radiators of which there are currently five on site. These and their associated earthing wires occupy most of the curtilage of the Brookmans Park site. These masts are scheduled to stay for the foreseeable future.

The masts have been traditionally associated with a complex of control buildings in the centre of the site. These have been added to over the years to reflect changing operational requirements.

Recently consent has been granted for two separate applications, involving the following:-

2 x 11m, 4 x 11m, 4 x 7m, and 3 x 6m diameter satellite dishes, and a control building

Future Operations

Future operations on the site, as currently envisaged will involve the instalment of additional satellite dishes to receive and transmit information to and from geostationary satellites. These will require ancillary control buildings.

The Masterplan

Plan 3 - The Future Operational Masterplan - defines how these current and future needs can be accommodated on the site. The plan identifies the overall cartilage of the Brookmans Park Site and describes the site as follows:-

Rural Zone

This will remain as existing with two masts in an agricultural setting and will not be subject of any further applications.

Transitional zone

This area will remain as existing with three existing masts and will not be the subject of further development proposals.

Future Operational Zone

This zone will be allocated for the future development of the site. It will be developed in three phases.

Central Control Zone

This is defined by the main control building which has been added to over the years by extensions and by the erection of adjacent buildings to accommodate the changing requirements of the site. This zone would be the only location to accommodate any additional control buildings.

Landscape Framework

The site still retains the landscape framework associated with its previous and concurrent use for agriculture. This consists of arable fields contained by hedges or belts of trees with intermittent clumps of woodland. This pattern is repeated in the surrounding countryside although to the north and east some hedgerow and tree loss has occurred primarily as a result of intensive modern agricultural methods. It is proposed that the traditional pattern be reinstated in accordance with the aims and objectives of the Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan. Additionally the rural appearance of the site will be enhanced particularly from the adjacent A1000. The following is proposed: -

Eastern Boundary - maintenance of existing woodland belt with reinforcement planting where appropriate.

Northern Boundary - maintenance of existing woodland with replanting of existing gaps and additional reinforcement planting where appropriate.

Central Belt - this will be implemented in accordance with the recent planning permission. It will be added to and will run from the northern to southern boundaries.

The existing hedge with intermittent trees will be replanted to create a belt of woodland of similar scale and character to the northern and western boundaries.

This central belt will divide the parts of the site that the BBC does not require for future expansion into two zones:-

The Rural Zone - the creation of the new central woodland belt will provide a backdrop for the open fields adjacent to the A1000 which will continue to be used as grazing land. This will reinforce the rural character of the area and increase woodland cover.

The Transitional Zone - which will remain in its current use and will be subdivided from the operational site by additional planting.

Public Footpath - Consideration will be given to the relocation of the existing public right of way to run through the centre of the existing woodland. This will create a more appropriate environment for enjoyment of the Green Belt.

Phasing and Implementation

The landscaping scheme will be implemented in accordance with the phased development of the site. The scheme will be agreed with Welwyn Hatfield Council on the basis of the above principles. It is anticipated that reinforcement landscaping in relation to phases 1 and 2 will commence in the 1994/95 planting season.

Construction and maintenance access

For phases 1 and 2 this will be through the existing main entrance. For phase 3 the existing access road from the A1000 at the western end of the site will be used.

3 TECHNICAL BENEFITS OF THE BROOKMANS PARK SITE

Background

The BBC's transmission station at Brookmans Park has been established since 1929. As a result of technological advances, changes have occurred over that 60 year period. To meet their obligations it is important that the BBC continue to retain the ability to respond and adapt to new technology.

The main requirement in the foreseeable future will be to accommodate satellite dishes similar to those recently established on the site.

Technical Benefits : Functional

Due to the BBC's long established use of the site there are a number of technical (functional) benefits to concentrating development at the site. These include: -

Technical Benefits : Locational

The site is also well located to provide a number of technical (Vocational) benefits: -

The BBC recognise the sensitivity of the Brookmans Park location in the Green Belt however the requirements set out above can be seen as a series of special circumstances which justify development within the Green Belt. The relevant planning issues are explored in the next section.

 

4 PLANNING POLICY CONSIDERATIONS

The main issues which are addressed below are:-

The guidance is first summarised and then commented upon, drawing out how the future development of Brookmans Park is satisfactory in planning terms.

National Guidance: Telecommunications

Up-to-date national guidance on planning and telecommunications development is contained in PPG8, published in December 1992.

The introduction to the PPG notes the rapid change in technology and its benefits for the workplace and home, bringing wider opportunities for business, entertainment and education. The Government's approach is clear, in that they wish to facilitate the growth of new and existing systems and require local authorities to respond positively to proposals whilst taking account of the environmental effects.

The PPG describes the various principal telecommunications systems and recognises that different antenna-types have different "siting needs and characteristics' which have to be taken into account by development control (paragraph 8). The particular characteristics of the Brookmans Park proposals have been described in section 2.

The PPG advises that authorities can identify particular sites for major telecommunications development - especially to help site sharing - or set out various criteria to guide telecommunications development. The relationship between the Council's policy on telecommunications (BEV 18) and the proposed development is assessed below. For larger telecommunications development the PPG states that protection from visual damage will be an important consideration as well as network development. It is recognised that telecommunications technology requires particular sites but that these can he prominent locations and hence, give rise to potential visual damage. Whilst emphasising the need to consider applications in light of the development plan, the PPG refers to other material considerations including the significance of the scheme as part of the development of a national network (paragraph 26).

A key element of the guidance relates to sharing of masts and keeping to a minimum the number of sites for such installations. The importance attached by the Government to site sharing is also referred to at paragraph 15 and is consistent with the BBC's licence, issued by the Radio Communications Agency under the Telecommunications Act, which requires the company to share sites if there is sufficient space to accommodate another operator's system.

In addition to site sharing, the guidance identifies siting and design as the important considerations in determining planning applications with attention paid to height, ancillary development and the scope for landscaping/screening. With reference to siting, the guidance emphasises the special needs of antennas to achieve a line of sight (e.g. to a satellite) (paragraph 30).

Welwyn Hatfield District Plan : Telecommunications

With reference to telecommunications development, the District Plan's only policy states that apparatus should not have a detrimental effect on the appearance of the countryside. The Council's policy BEV 18 requires proposals for telecommunications apparatus to be 'sensitive in terms of scale, siting, profile, size and colour, and should not adversely affect the character of the building and surrounding area ".

 National Guidance: Green Belts

The Brookmans Park Site is also located within the Metropolitan Green Belt which was established to perform various roles. These familiar and long established roles are set out in PPG2:-

The PPG notes that only in very special circumstances should new buildings be permitted unless for a range of specified uses including those activities appropriate to a rural area.

Structure Plan and District Plan : Green Belt and Landscape

The role of the Green Belt is re-iterated in the Hertfordshire Structure Plan and the national guidance also forms the basis of the Council's policies. The Council recognise that some forms of development are appropriate within the Green Belt and that for some existing uses, which are not appropriate Green Belt, development should be strictly limited. This does not imply a complete restriction on further development (paragraph 2.21, District Plan).

The Brookmans Park Site is also included within a Landscape Development Area where Policy CR2 applies, it states that the Council will seek to improve the existing landscape to create a "quality landscape'. It is recognised that this will require working in conjunction with the landowner.

Comment

From the preceding paragraphs on planning policy it is possible to identify a series of tests or points which can be applied to the consideration and determination of future development at the BBC site.

i) What is the Visual Impact and the Scope for Screening

The site is very well screened from the A1000, generally hidden from view by a hedge/ tree belt. The only view into Brookmans Park is at the entrance into the site. However, the landscaping proposals currently approved within the site will screen views of the application site by introducing a tree belt across the centre of the site and adjacent to the entrance from the A1000.

This landscaping will be reinforced by the extension of the central tree belt to the northern and southern boundaries of the site. This will complete the screening of the operational site and subdivide the site into an open rural area to the west the transitional zone in the centre and the operational zone in the east. The entrance road into the site will also be landscaped to create a 'woodland' approach to the control buildings. Such planting will minimise the visual impact of the existing buildings when viewed from the A1000.

The BBC recognise the importance of screening the site from the surrounding rural area to the north and east and this will be achieved by reinforcement of the existing boundaries with gap planting where appropriate.

ii) Site Sharing

The site is clearly in use as a transmitting station and the principle of site sharing has been established. The site is therefore clearly defined as the appropriate location for catering for telecommunications within the District. This ensures efficient use of this site and avoids a proliferation of satellite dishes onto new sites in the Green Belt.

iii) The Capacity for Ancillary Development

The central control zone has been established as the only location for the ancillary development such as control buildings which are required in connection with satellite dishes on the site.

iv) Special Siting Needs

The special technical advantages of the site have been outlined in section 3

v) Effect on the Green Belt

Whilst the site is within the Green Belt we do not consider that the aims of the Green Belt are infringed. The development does not result in urban sprawl nor will the future development of the site lead to encroachment into the countryside.

The existing activity at Brookmans Park is long established since 1929 and as technology changes the appearance of the apparatus will also alter. Such technological advances are clearly catered for. Given the particular history of the Brookmans Park Site and the careful integration of the future operational zone into the established landscape pattern there would be no infringement of Green Belt Policy.

 

5 CONCLUSIONS

From the above, the following conclusions can be drawn:

The BBC's transmission station at Brookmans Park has been established since 1929 and technological advances have resulted in changes over that 60 year period. This proposed development maintains that pattern of responding and adapting to the new technology - for which the BBC are appreciative of the local authority's support on planning aspects and trust that the Councillors and officers will support this latest proposal, as the basis for agreeing the future operational requirements for the site.