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Planning changes bring risk of huge masts

Friday 29 April 2016

The Government has decided to allow 20m high telecommunication masts to be erected in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks from this summer without the need for any planning permission (details of announcement here).

The announcement was made in March and the Government then only consulted on changes to the Code for mobile phone operators, not the detail of whether to make these changes to planning policy (https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/mobile-planning-changes).

The Chilterns Conservation Board is very concerned about the impacts this relaxation in planning could have for the Chilterns AONB and the rest of the country's AONBs and National Parks. Protected landscapes are national assets which should be safeguarded and treasured. Quick and cheap installation of poorly designed phone masts in damaging locations would deeply harm this country.

Lucy Murfett, planning officer for Chilterns Conservation Board said: “There should be no permitted development rights for telecoms masts in protected areas; in our finest nationally protected landscapes it is not too much to ask to have a planning process to safeguard natural beauty. The principle should be that operators work with local planning authorities and AONBs to find a solution that minimises the impact of communications apparatus. The best way to achieve this balance is through a planning process.”

In its response to the Government the Conservation Board also made the point that there is no good reason for exempting telecoms operators from their duty under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to conserve the natural beauty of an AONB when carrying out any activities.

The Chilterns Conservation Board is the body set up by Parliament to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and increase the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the AONB.

AONBs are designated by the Government for the purpose of ensuring that the special qualities of the finest landscapes in England and Wales are conserved and enhanced. In policy terms they have the same planning status as National Parks.

You can read the Board's full response to the Government here

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