An updated planning regime could see new ground-based mobile phone masts in Scotland being extended in height by five metres under draft proposals to change ‘permitted development rights’ legislation.
Existing laws governing the siting of digital communications infrastructure are set to be updated and could see ground based masts being extended to 30m in height, from the current 25m, “outside designated areas”, which include conservations areas, sites of special scientific interest, national parks and world heritage sites.
Updates to planning legislation around ‘priority development types’ were outlined in a new consultation document which has recently gone live on the Scottish Government website.
The consultation, which closes on November 12, makes clear that any increase in size of either new or pre-existing digital telecommunications infrastructure or equipment, which could bring about economic and climate change benefits, would have to be balanced against any environmental impacts, “particularly on sensitive areas”.
The consultation explains: “The Scottish Government is committed to reviewing permitted development rights (PDR) for digital communications infrastructure to assist in enhancing and rolling out vital and improved digital communications (e.g. the rollout of 5G) for all regions of Scotland. This has become even more important given our reliance on digital communications during the Covid-19 pandemic. The benefits of enhanced digital connectivity also result in less travel which contributes significantly towards climate change measures by reducing our carbon footprint.”
Among the aims of the proposals include the ability to:
- Increase existing size limits for PDR for digital infrastructure, i.e. new masts, extensions to existing masts, antennae and other equipment on buildings, equipment cabinets on the ground and on buildings, other apparatus, and underground equipment; and
- extend PDR for some types of digital infrastructure into sensitive areas, subject to lower size/height limits than elsewhere
In addition to new ground-based masts, the proposed updates to permitted development rights (PDR) would allow network operators to increase the size of existing masts beyond the current limits to improve mobile coverage or for maintenance purposes. Under the planned changes, which would apply to designated areas, the masts could be increased in height up to 30 metres (i.e. the same maximum height as for new masts..’) and also that ‘the increase should be limited to no more than 50% of the height of the original mast (whichever is the lower)’. The consultation outlines plans to allow existing masts which are above 30 metres in height to be increased to up to 50 metres in height.
Follow-up questions include whether mast size width should also be increased and whether replacement masts can be sited slightly further from existing locations; it also proposes extending dish antenna and other antenna systems on buildings and to ‘extend PDR beyond small antennas to cover small cell systems (small antennas and ancillary apparatus) on dwellinghouses and on all buildings in conservation areas’.
The full consultation is available here.