The Essex Approach
This guidance seeks to set out a consistent Essex wide approach and guidance for Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to follow when submitting or determining applications for mobile communications infrastructure.
As a result, we have set out the following principles:
Principle 1: Early engagement with LPAs regarding new or replacement infrastructure within existing communities or major strategic development sites across the county. We encourage a pre application approach for all mobile infrastructure applications within the county of Essex where reasonable and proportionate pre application fees can be agreed.
Principle 2: Site selection process should be discussed with the LPA at an early stage to provide assurances that the most appropriate sites are shortlisted, and more sensitive sites screened out. This process should be evidenced by submitting an appropriately detailed baseline evidence and optioneering analysis which provides a narrative to the decision-making process. Some sites and locations will be constrained by the functional requirements of the application. New infrastructure within highway ownership (under agreement with the Highways Authority) should be carefully located to avoid any conflicts infrastructure may have on cyclists, pedestrians and people of all abilities. Landownership considerations should also be balanced against the need to locate infrastructure in the optimum location without restricting access or movement.
It is also important to recognise the role that Permitted Development Rights plays for these applications; vastly limiting the benefits (to the applicant) in producing unreasonable amounts of supporting evidence/documentation.
Principle 3: Applications should demonstrate a clear understanding of the natural, built and historic context and constraints of all potential development sites in Essex. Information gathered should be submitted as part of the planning application process and be used to create a clear narrative for all stakeholders. (Again, balanced against the needs of the applicant and considering the benefits of information produced against the role of Permitted Development Rights.)
In line with the NPPF, the evidence to be required and used to inform the planning process needs to be up-to-date and relevant / focused on the proposals to be considered. The approach should be to ensure proportionate evidence that is adequate to support the outcomes from the planning process.
Principle 4: The application process for mobile infrastructure should be consistently managed by LPAs meeting the agreed consultation timeframe, including pre application engagement to provide a positive collaboration between the LPA and the MNOs.
Factors affecting the siting
The context of Essex, (including natural, historic and built environment designations) is the underling factor for any new mobile infrastructure. Height, topography and wider views to the proposed site are key considerations for sites within rural settings. Where deemed necessary, Landscape and Visual Appraisals (LVAs) of the proposals will be key supporting evidence to help determine the potential impact of the infrastructure. For example, areas of sensitive landscape such as AONB, conservation areas or elevated locations. Proximity to existing residential and commercial structures or buildings (including historic building and heritage assets) may also play a major role in the siting.
Factors regarding the appearance
Regarding appearance, materials, height/massing/scale and design are all key considerations to review and explore. There are several elements which are predetermined by the very nature of the infrastructure which will limit opportunities to review and redesign. The design of structures is constrained by technical requirements of the infrastructure while seeking to minimising visual impact; as such the primary design is led by the technical need.
Factors affecting network services
The siting of a radio base station is largely dependent on the characteristics of the radio signals which they transmit. Physical features such as buildings or landscape can obstruct the signals. In open rural areas one base station can typically cover several kilometres in radius. However, in urban areas where surrounding buildings will have a negative impact on the signals and result in the need for more regularly placed infrastructure. In areas of high demand such as towns and cities, the need to support and maintain the existing capacity of the network is a material consideration, in planning terms, over and above the need to achieve a basic level of overall network coverage.
Time frames for decision making
The timeframe for determining mobile infrastructure applications varies depending on the application type.
According to the legislation, on a Part 16 (GPDO) submission ‘Day 1’ is the day the valid application is received by the LPA.
Requirement for a valid application:
The application must be accompanied by;
- written description of the proposed development and a plan indicating only its proposed location together with any fee required to be paid;
- should be noted that this is a ‘light touch’ approach and intentionally not as comprehensive as that of a full planning application, however there maybe instances (or site locations) where additional reports/analysis are produced as part of the application process. See pre-application checklist.
The development must not begin before the occurrence of one of the following—
(8) The development must not begin before the occurrence of one of the following—
(a) the receipt by the applicant from the local planning authority of a written notice of their determination that prior approval is not required;
(b) where the local planning authority gives the applicant written notice that prior approval is required—
(i) the giving of that approval to the applicant, in writing, within a period of 56 days beginning with the date on which the local planning authority received the application in accordance with sub-paragraph (5);
(ii) the expiry of a period of 56 days beginning with the date on which the local planning authority received the application in accordance with sub-paragraph (5) without the local planning authority notifying the applicant, in writing, that such approval is given or refused; or
(c) the expiry of a period of 56 days beginning with the date on which the local planning authority received the application in accordance with sub-paragraph (5) without the local planning authority notifying the applicant, in writing, of their determination as to whether such prior approval is required.
Notwithstanding the above and with prior notice and agreement, reasonable extension of time requests can be submitted to the applicant by the local planning authority where additional time is needed to determine the application. This guidance will be monitored and updated by the working group on a 6-monthly basis.
Page updated: 20/12/2021