Telecommunications Legislation

Telecommunication Act 1984. Licences issued under this Act to mobile phone operators confer special rights and obligations as to how they conduct their business.

The Telecommunication code in Schedule 2 of the Act details the particular provisions which may be attached to individual licences.

The Planning Service holds copies of the licences issued for Northern Ireland.

Planning Legislation

In June 2002 Prior Approval Procedures for the erection of telecommunication masts were abolished. Since that date all new proposals to erect such masts as base stations must obtain full planning approval.

Other Recent Legislation

Listed Building and Monuments

Depending on the nature of the proposal approval may be required from Planning Service or EHS under Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (NI) Order 1995 where works are proposed to a listed building.

Building Control

Free standing masts are not the subject of building regulations. However, where masts are attached to a building, building control approval may be required for any alterations to the building.

Health and Safety

Health and Safety Executive are the responsible agency for controlling risks to peoples health and safety during the installation and maintenance of base stations. They are also the agency responsible for assessing risks to health and safety, which may occur from exposure to EMFS.

In effect the Health and Safety Executive (HSENI) are the agency responsible for the health and safety aspects of base stations after they are built.

Planning Issues

As outlined all sizeable base station proposals must now obtain full planning permission.

This offers the opportunity for full consultation and detailed consideration of the proposal.

The developer is also required under Planning Policy Statement 10 to address certain issues.

The developer must seek a solution, which has the least possible visual and environmental impact.

In rural areas the environmental impact of a number of masts ( clustering ) may be a significant consideration.

Mast and site sharing are also important considerations and developers must show that they have explored these possibilities.

Health considerations and public concern may in principle be material consideration in determining planning permission. In processing planning applications it is considered by the Planning Service if the proposal meets the ICNIRP Guidelines for public exposure to electromagnetic field it is not necessary to consider health effects further unless otherwise advised by the NRPB.

All new applications for base stations must meet with guidelines laid down by ICNIRP and so state.

District Councils are consulted by the Planning Service and may offer opinion on a particular application. However, where they offer opinion that an application should be significantly amended or refused on grounds of health or public concern the Planning Service will expect the council to produce authoritative scientific evidence that compliance with the ICNIRP Guidelines is inadequate. In short the planners are not bound by the council’s opinion.