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Telephone Masts

Volume 406: debated on Tuesday 10 June 2003

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To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will abolish the 42-day rule for local authorities to refuse a notice for the erection of a telephone mast and replace it with a legal requirement that the erection of all masts should be the subject of a planning application. [117400]

On 22 August 2001, the Government significantly strengthened the planning arrangements for telecommunications development. One change was to increase the time for authorities to deal with prior approval applications from 28 and 42 days to a uniform 56 days. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister strengthened public consultation requirements on mast proposals of 15 metres and below and for masts on buildings and structures so that they are exactly the same as applications for planning permission. We have no plans to change these arrangements.The arrangements of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister give authorities more time to consider proposals, but with consent deemed to be granted if no decision has been made after 56 days so that development is not delayed. This discipline is needed because many authorities are failing to meet their Best Value targets for determining planning applications. Authorities are able to turn down mast applications where they do not consider amenity aspects have been adequately addressed. The arrangements strike the right balance between improving consultation with local people and ensuring that the decision-making process is not open-ended, thus giving the 50 million people who use mobile phones the service they want.

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what representations he has received during the past 12 months requesting that the 42-day rule for local authorities to refuse a notice for the erection of a telephone mast should be extended; and if he will make a statement [117401]

In August 2001, we increased the time for authorities to deal with prior approval applications from 28 and 42 days to a uniform 56 days. There are no plans to extend this period of time at present. The Government receive many representations on matters relating to the telecommunications industry, but we are not aware of any particular representations to extend the period for prior approval.