Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions

Planning Policy Guidance Note 8: Telecommunications

This extract summarises the main points.


Planning Policy Guidance notes set out the Government's policies on different aspects of planning. They should be taken into account by local planning authorities as they prepare their development plans, and may be material to decisions in individual applications for planning permission and prior approval and appeals.

This PPG, which is effective from 22 August 2001, replaces PPG8 of December 1992 ‘Telecommunications’ and Circular 4/99 ‘Planning for Telecommunications.’ It 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. Other guidance which may affect the determination of an application for telecommunications development may particularly be found in PPG2 ‘Green Belts’, PPG7 ‘The Countryside and the Rural Economy’, PPG9 ‘Nature Conservation’ and PPG15 ‘Planning and the Historic Environment’

The provision of telecommunications services and the functions of the Director General of Telecommunications are governed by the Telecommunications Act 1984. Local planning authorities need to bear in mind the requirements imposed on telecommunications operators by that Act.

The main changes to PPG8 are:

Planning Policy

General Policy

1. The Government's policy is to facilitate the growth of new and existing telecommunications systems whilst keeping the environmental impact to a minimum. The Government also has responsibility for protecting public health.

2. The aim of telecommunications policy is to ensure that people have a choice as to who provides their telecommunications service, a wider range of services from which to choose and equitable access to the latest technologies as they become available.

3. The Government places great emphasis on its well established national policies for the protection of the countryside and urban areas - in particular the National Parks (including the Broads and the New Forest), Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, the Green Belts, the Heritage Coast and areas and buildings of architectural or historic importance.

4. Whilst local planning authorities are encouraged to respond positively to telecommunications development proposals, they should take account of the advice on the protection of urban and rural areas in other planning policy guidance notes.

5. Material considerations include the significance of the proposed development as part of a national network. In making an application for planning permission or prior approval, operators may be expected to provide evidence regarding the need for the proposed development.

6. Authorities should not seek to prevent competition between different operators and should not question the need for the telecommunications system which the proposed development is to support.

Technical Limitations

7. Each telecommunications system has different antenna types, siting needs and other characteristics. Planning authorities should have regard to any technical constraints on the location and proposed development.

13. Where a mast is to be installed on or near a school or college the local planning authority should consult the relevant body of the school or college concerned and should take into account any relevant views expressed.

Environmental Considerations

14. Protection from visual intrusion and the implications for subsequent network development will be important considerations in determining applications.

15. Local planning authorities and operators should work together to find the optimum environmental and network solution on a case-by-case basis.

17. In Green Belts, telecommunications development is likely to be inappropriate unless it maintains openness. Inappropriate development may proceed only if very special circumstances are demonstrated which outweigh the degree of harm to the Green Belt. The lack of a suitable alternative site that would meet the needs of network coverage or capacity might be considered as very special circumstances.

18. Permitted development rights should not be withdrawn (by a direction under Article 4 of the General Permitted Development Order) unless there is a real and specific threat to the locality in which development is to take place. Blanket directions aimed at imposing full planning controls over a wide range of telecommunications development will not normally be approved.

Mast and site sharing

19. In order to limit visual intrusion, the Government attaches considerable importance to keeping the numbers of radio and telecommunications masts, and of the sites for such installations, to the minimum consistent with the efficient operation of the network.

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" (see endnote 1) 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.

A copy of the report can be found at


2. 'References to telecommunications throughout should be read as including all forms of communications by electrical or optical wire and cable and radio signals (whether terrestrial or from satellite), both public and private, except where otherwise stated.
3. Address of the CAA: CAA Safeguarding Coordinator, Aerodrome Standards Department, Second Floor West, Aviation House, Gatwick Airport South, RH6 0YR Tel: 01293 573264.
4. Address of the MOD: Safeguarding, Defence Estates, Blakemore Drive, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B75 7RL. Tel: 0121 311 3818.
5. SI 1997 No 2931
6. For further information, see statement of 6 November 1998 by the Director General of Telecommunications. This is available on the OFTEL website ( or from the Research and Intelligence Unit, OFTEL, 50 Ludgate Hill, London, EC4M 7JJ (tel 020 7634 8761).
7. DTLR free literature PO BOX 236, Weatherby, West Yorkshire, LS23 7NB, Tel: 0870 122 6236.
8. BMS, DCMS, 2-4 Cockspur Street, London, SW1Y 5DH.
9. As expressed in the EU Council Recommendation of 12 July 1999 on the limitation of exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields (0 Hz to 300GHz). Off J Eur Commun, L199, 59 (1999/519/EC).
10. Newport B.C. v S.S. for Wales and Browning Ferris Environmental Services Ltd [1998] Env. LR at 174 and [1998] JPL 377.

Where advice is sought, the following may be able to assist:

The Association of Consulting Engineers
Alliance House, 12 Caxton Street, London SW1H 0QL
Tel: 020 7222 6557 Website:

British Broadcasting Corporation
BBC Reception Advice, Television Centre,
Wood Lane, London W12 7RJ
Tel: 08700 100 123 Website:

Independent Television Commission
ITC Engineering Information
Staple House
Staple Gardens
Winchester SO23 8SR Tel: 01962 848647 Website:

The Radio Authority
Holbrook House, 14 Great Queen Street
Holborn, London WC2B 5DG
Tel: 020 7430 2724
Email: Website:

The Institution of Electrical Engineers
Savoy Place, London, WC2R 0BL Tel: 020 7240 1871

Email: Website:

Radiocommunications Agency
Wyndham House, 189 Marsh Wall
London E14 9SX Tel: 020 7211 0502 or 0505
Email: Website:

Radio Society of Great Britain
Lambda House, Cranborne Road, Potters Bar
Hertfordshire EN6 3JE Tel: 0870 904 7373

Email: Website: