27th August 2019

Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), has announced a consultation on proposals to simplify planning rules with a view to improving rural mobile coverage.

The consultation document can be accessed here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/proposed-reforms-to-permitted-development-rights-to-support-the-deployment-of-5g-and-extend-mobile-coverage


Friends of the Lake District fully understands that rural communities are keen to obtain levels of digital connectivity such as fast broadband and good mobile ‘phone signals in order to support both work and leisure. Such technology is essential not only for our rural communities to remain vital and viable into the future but also to ensure that the emergency services, including Mountain Rescue, can continue to operate effectively across the country. 

However, these needs must be balanced with the essential provisions of the environment, including the health and well-being benefits we derive from the peace, tranquillity and beauty of the landscape and its many components.  As such, we welcome the recognition given by Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that the proposals for new taller communications masts will have to strike a balance between the landscape and better connectivity and respect certain areas of outstanding natural beauty. We also acknowledge her suggestion that larger masts may accommodate more equipment, potentially reducing the number of masts required overall. 

We have not yet considered the current consultation in detail but in order to ensure that this balance can be struck, where new communications infrastructure is required we would be keen to see:

• The choice of location of masts being informed by landscape evidence such as Landscape Character Assessments, Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments and evidence on the Cumulative Impact of Vertical Infrastructure;

• Special considerations for protected landscapes and their settings, such as additional need and landscape evidence requirements, additional design and mitigation requirements and a lower maximum height (as is currently the case);

• Consideration of alternatives to new masts, such as mounting equipment on existing buildings or existing masts wherever viable and appropriate;

• Maximise mast sharing between different providers;

• A commitment to rationalise mast provision (i.e. to always use the minimum number of masts needed) and to remove any masts that are no longer required;

• New mast provision to be coupled with undergrounding of existing wires as mitigation and a commitment to underground new wires.