Taken From: http://www.cozens-hardy.com/

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Rooftop Telecommunications Masts – Striking the Right Balance

The law may appear dusty and distant to some, but it can be a driving force for social and environmental change. In one example of that process in action, a High Court ruling means that forests of mobile phone and telecommunications antennae on top of buildings are likely to become a rarer sight.

FlatsResidents of an urban conservation area objected after the owner of a block of social housing flats licensed a telecommunications company to install antennae and other equipment on its roof. They had not been consulted and were concerned that the development was unsightly. Some were also anxious about health risks that might be posed by radiation emissions from the installation.

The equipment was, however, put in place after the local authority ruled that the development was automatically permitted by the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 and that planning permission was therefore not required.

Although formal permission would ordinarily have been needed, on the basis that the block was less than 15 metres in height and was within 20 metres of a highway, the council took the view that the poles used to support the antennae were not ‘radio masts’ within the meaning of the Order.

In upholding a judicial review challenge to the council’s decision, however, the Court found that its conclusion on that point was irrational. Taking a purposive approach to interpreting the Order, the Court found that the council’s view as to what did and did not constitute a mast would lead to an illogical outcome. Its decision had failed to strike a proper balance between the pressing need for telecommunications equipment and neighbourhood interests.

The supporting poles, which were about three metres high, were just as unsightly as more conventional rooftop masts and posed a similar, if not greater, risk to highway safety. The poles supported antennae that transmitted and received radio waves and they were thus properly viewed as radio masts. In those circumstances, formal planning permission had been required and the council’s decision was quashed.



 
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