London Green Belt Council

Green Belt appeal decisions

Mobile phone masts


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Updated 11 May 2007, this page includes various recent decisions on appeals against refusal of planning consent. Summarises of appeal decisions arising from refusal of planning consent are available at www.Planning,uk/dcs, with a copy of the decision letter also available for a fee.

'SoS' = Secretary of State. 'DETR' is now ‘DCLG’ = Dept for Communities and Local Government.

15m mobile phone mast refused in Co. Durham GB. The slim-line mast would be adjacent to a roundabout and the mast would project well above the lighting columns. The antenna would damage the character despite being placed in a shroud. The need for national coverage and lack of other available sites they were insufficient to justify approval. Partial costs were awarded because the council had refused on highway safety grounds without justification or support by Highways, and against the officer’s advice. DCS ref OT 100-045-013. 3.11.06

13.7m mobile phone tower allowed in Surrey GB. The appellant could find no alternative sites outside the GB area to comply with PPG8 para 65, since the whole area was designated GB. 14 alternative sites had been examined and the council did not dispute the reasons for their rejection. The only other possible site was lower so it would need a higher mast. DCS ref WR 100-045-341. 8.12.06

14.7m phone mast refused in Essex GB. Located at a yacht club, the mast would be disguised as a yacht mast with a gaff, yardarm and halyard rigging. The 3 panel antennas on top of the mast would be shrouded in an imitation radar equipment cover. The inspector accepted the free-standing phone mast would be surrounded by boat masts but would stilled be incongruous. The bulk at the top of the mast would be different from the slender boat masts. The Inspector was not convinced that all possible alternative sites had been fully investigated. Very special circumstances had not been demonstrated. DCS 100037870. 29.7.05

Phone antennae would harm mill in Lancs. conservation area. The mill is in a 19th century industrial village based on 5 weaving mills. The Inspector decided the village had a very appealing historic appearance and character, and 3 antennas and dish on a mill chimney would be unsympathetic even though the proposed colour scheme tried to blend in with the brickwork. DCS 100037226 10 June 2005.

Need for mobile phone mast needed did not outweigh its visual impact. The 12.5m mast was refused in Metropolitan GB on appeal despite the operator O2 asserting that the residential area had a weak signal and mobile phones could only be used outside buildings. This was the only suitable site given the screening provided by trees. The Inspector found that the mast would be visible from certain viewpoints and would be a prominent feature, and harmful to the predominantly natural character of the area. DCS 33783912. July 2004

15m telecoms mast OK in Kent GB – The Inspector concluded that no other available sites would be less harmful to the visual impact on the GB. Other sites had been checked out. DCS 32927790 March 2004

Telecomms mast allowed in Kent GB because of network need – The 15m high ‘lightning tree’ mast was allowed despite the harm to the GB and health fears. It would be within a belt of mature trees. Other options had been rejected because of their location in relation to the network. The proposal met the relevant health guidelines. DCS 49191821 Nov 2003.

'Grain silo' mobile phone mast approved - In the St Helens GB, approval has been given to a 16.5m high silo-shaped structure housing telecomms equipment. Although it was inappropriate, not being for agricultural use, the appellant had examined 9 alternative sites but all were unsuitable for technical reasons. The benefit of consolidating the telecomms network in the area was significant and the limited visual impact meant that approval should be given. DCS 43898675. April 2003.

Replacement mobile phone mast approved in West Mids GB - The Inspector allowed this mast because, although in the GB, part 24 of GPDO 1995 limited consideration to the siting and appearance of the development, not its appropriateness. The replacement 15m pole resembled a conventional lighting column and would be viewed with a background of a pleasant landscaped fottball club. It would do little to stimulate fear, rational or otherwise, among local residents, with any emissions being below international guidelines. Dudley MBC 30 july 2002. DCS 4365706

Replacement antennas on water tower OK - 13 antennas are to be replaced by 12 dual polar antennason a water tower in the green belt. The Inspector said it would have a positive effect on green belt openness but the enlarged equipment cabin made it inappropriate. On balance the improved high-quality service to meet customer demand was a very special circumstance so approval was granted. Bury MBC 8 Feb 2002. DCS 44357634.

Mast approval delay was maladministration - A Council failed to determine a prior approval application for a mobile phone mast within the 42-day (now 56 days) deadline allowed under planning laws. The Ombudsman awarded 350 to the complainant who lived about 200m from the site. The Council had decided to refuse permission but staff shortages and Christmas caused the delay. This delay meant that permission was effectively granted. In making this award the Ombudsman recommended that the Council should attempt to screen the mast from the complainant's view. Dacorum BC 29 Nov 2001. Ref 00/B/18637

Mobile phone masts - summary of situation August 2001

'Planning' magazine has investigated and summarised the complex world of mobile phone masts. The conclusion is an urgent need for the Government to publish final guidance within PPG8 on telecommunications following its consulation draft in Jily 2000.

In an article, they say the Government position appears to be clear. The Housing & Planning Minister Nick Raynsford wrote to Councils in June 2000 on the subject, and at the same time the Stewart Report was issued - Report of the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones'. Both recommended a precautionary approach, requiring compliance with guidelines limiting exposure to radio waves as published by the International Commision on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). If a proposed development meets these guidelines, there is no need to consider health effects further.

In Scotland from July 2001, applications for antenna should have a declaration of compliance with ICNIRP guidelines on exposure. This declaration will effectively mean that approval will be given. However in England, recent planning appeals have been inconsistant. In one case at Harrow the Inspector concluded that the perception of harm to the well-being of local residents was sufficient to justify refusal based on loss of amentity. In another case in Harrow, another Inspector took a contrary view.

In Leeds, an Inspector refused a 12.5m mast near a main road in a predominantly residential area, because it would be viewed every day by residents, eroding their perception of the quality of the local environnment, contrary to PPG3 -Housing. In June 2001, Hart DC imposed a condition on a 21m base station mast regarding emission levels, but this was overturned by an Inspector who refused even to allow a condition requiring operation within guidelines. Also in June 2001, an Inspector refused S Oxfordshire Council' attempt to restrict development for a 60m mast since this would remove permitted development rights under the General Permitted Development Order 1995, article 3 part 24.

Although diggicult to generalise, it would appear that:

- potential health effects should not be used as a justification for withholding permission,

- the environmental effects based on a perception of harm to the well-being of local residenmts could form the basis of an objection provided it is related to the siting and visual appearance of a mast within a sensitive location such as predominantly residential area,

- the restriction of emissions or on the erection of further equipment on permitted installations, should not be imposed.

Mobile phone mast refused - 'perception of loss of environmental quality'

Not on Green Belt land, but an Inspector refused a 12.5m monopole mast because its local would heighten the health concerns of residents. The most important point was not the effect on the street scene, but the visual significance relative to nearby houses. The introduction of a commercial development ran counter to PPG3 - Housing which required the protection of the quality of residential areas. There was a 'perception of loss of environmental quality'. Leeds CC 20 July 2001. DCS 39879043

Mobile phone mast - health conditions disallowed

Hart DC (Hampshire) conditionally approved a 21m high mobile phone mast requiring limitations on electromagnetic emissions. Vodaphone appealed and had the condition deleted. The Inspector referred to circular 1/95 which advised local authorities, when contemplating whether a condition is necessary, to consider whether planning permission would be refused without it. National advice is that radiation safety is a Health and Safety Executive matter, not a planning matter.The Planning process is not an appropriate mechanism for determining health safeguards. Provide the installation met international guidelines it was not necessary for the Council to consider health aspects. The Council was not allowed to add a condition requiring compliance with international guidelines since this duplicated controls under other legislation. Hart DC 5 June 2001. DCS No 62084968

Mobile phone mast - equipment (& health/safety) limitation disallowed

A Council approved a 60m high lattice tower with a condition which restricted the erection or installation of equipment other than that approved. The Inspector removed this condition. Part 24 of schedule 2 of the General Permitted Development Order 1995 allows certain classes of telecomms development without planning permission. This condition would have removed permitted development rights in order to maintain the character of the locality. Although in the Green belt and an area of great landscape value, the Inspector ruled the condition to be unreasonable. Further equipment would not have a seriously adverse effect on amenity or the landscape. He also ruled that possible health effects of more equipment did not need planning conditions since any equipment would have to comply with separate health and safety regulations. South Oxfordshire DC 11 June 2001. DCS No. 62528205

Wind monitoring tower refused

The Inspector dismissed an appeal for a 40m tower to monitor wind energy in the Bristol Green Belt. The height of the tower, and its location in the middle of an open field meant it was visible over a wide area, diminshing the openness of the Green Belt. The proximity of a TV tower would draw attention to both structures, further dimishing the openness. The possibility of developing a wind farm providing renewable energy and farm diversity did not creat a very special circumstance. It would also have an adverse effect on the Mendip Hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty. No conditions could be imposed to remedy the damage. Bath & NE Somerset Council. 2 May 2001. DCS No. 33617177

Mobile Phone mast refused in green belt due to visual impact

Vodaphone was denied prior approval under part 24 of the General Permitted Development Order for a 15m free-standing lattice tower with equipment cabin < 30 cubic m. in the London green Belt. The Inspector said the tower would just project above the trees so it was not unduly intrusive. The equipment cabin was substantial with a 1.8m chain link fence topped with barbed wire. visible from nearby land and a public footpath. This would, in her opinion, harm the openness of the area. Although the mast was needed, this did not justify the cabin and ancillary development. L/B Bromley 28 Feb 2001 DCS No. 41974200.

Replacement telecomms mast not approved.

Not in the Green Belt, but the Inspector upheld an enforcement order requiring the removal of a replacement telecomms mast. The 18m mast was in the back garden of a semi-detached house in Solihull. The Inspector said the removal of the former mast of similar dimensions did not authorise a replacement. The appellant said the new mast was an identical model with similar dimensions so no further consent was required. The Inspector concluded that the previous permission was 'spent' when the permission was implemented, and a new mast was beyond an 'act of maintenance'. The replacement mast was not immune from enforcement action since it had been installed within the last 4 years. It was a visually intrusive and alien feature in a residential area. Solihull MBC 18 April 2001. DCS No. 27353054


Mobile phone mast OK, being unobtrusive and lacking evidence of health risk

An 11.5m telecoms pole was allowed in the Green Belt at Harrow Weald. The Inspector considered it inappropriate in polciy terms, but noted it would not be unduly obtrusive in its verdant setting. The Courts have held that any genuine perception of health danger was a valid consideration. In this case, there were no representations that the pole would break current National Radiiological Protectiion Board guidelines, so there was no justification for rejecting the proposal on health grounds. L/B Harrow 9 Feb 2001. DCS no. 30611318. NOTE - See the case reported immediately below where health fears caused the opposite decision.

2 Mobile phone masts refused on appeal

The Planning Inspectorate have dismissed two separate appeals for mobile phone masts on grounds of public fears about health hazards. This is the first time that these fears have been considered a material consideration. One was at Stanmore in London Borough of Harrow. The Inspector said ' There is justification for the Council's view that residents anxiety about the health effects of the appeal installations materially contributes to the general loss of amenity. Another Inspector upheld Thurrock's refusal of an 8 metre high mast for the same reason.

Planning Minister Nick Raynsford wrote to Councils last summer advising them to ignore health issues when determining mast applications if they met international radiation guidelines. Butthe lobby group Mast Action UK said these decisions will give authorities to ignore Raynsford's advice, which MAUK believe vioates the Human Rights Act. MAUK say that inspectors are doing what the law requires. It respects the European Convention on Human Rights article 8 -the right to respect for family life and article 6 - the right to a fair and proper hearing. the RTPI say that 'this will put new pressure on authorities to refuse masts. But it is barmy to leave them to judge the safety of each individual mast. the Government needs to assess if they are safe.'

Refusal of Mobile phone antenna on Victorian church.

Three 1.8m antenna and a 0.3m microwave dish were refused as discordant if attached to a Victorian church spire of Gothic style. While noting the Government's advice to use existing structures it was inappropriate for a listed building. Wakefield MBC, 17 Nov 2000 - APP/X4725/A/00/1047644

Phone mast allowed as health fears rejected

Not in the Green Belt, but Orange won their appeal to build a 20m high mobile phone mast on an industrial estate in Fowey , Cornwall near a primary school. The Council refused permission since it was near a primary school and residential properties, and there was no evidence to prove that radiation from the mast would not be a risk to human health.

The DETR Inspector took into account the findings of the Ind ependent Expert Group on Mobile Phones Report published in May 2000. She noted that the proposal complied with the policies in the structure plan and emerging local plan, and that levels of radiation from the proposed mast fell well below national and int ernational guidelines on public exposure. Despite evidence from the Council that the proposed mast could cause health problems, such as increased risk of cancer, she found that the evidence was not reliable enough to establish a 'demonstrable harm'. The evidence on possible health impacts was not substantial enough to outweigh the social and economic benefits of allowing the proposal.

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