Mobile Infrastructure Planning Briefing

This article was first published by The Clerk Magazine, May 2022. It is reproduced with their permission.

In the May issue of The Clerk Magazine published by the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC), MBNL’s Planning Manager Will Osborne explains the process behind providing the UK with improved mobile network connectivity, along with the related planning process.

Mobile Broadband Network Limited (MBNL) works closely with central government, devolved authorities, our site providers, and the wider community to enable better connectivity to more parts of the country. We support the acquisition, build, transmission, and deployment of all of EE and Three UK’s shared mobile network.

Planning Process For Mobile Infrastructure

As planning is a devolved function across the UK, MBNL must respond to different legislation, government bodies, and local authorities.

The demand for the services provided by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and the country’s whole telecoms network, means installation of telecommunications equipment may be located in the centre of towns or cities, in conservation areas, on listed buildings, or in designated areas, such as national parks. All of this adds complexity to managing the planning of network deployment and associated communications and engagement needs.

The preparation of applications is key to delivering sites. Working with local planning authorities (LPAs) through early engagement and providing a thorough explanation of the need for the application then assists in making the final decision.

Forthcoming Planning Changes And Workshops

Changes to the current permitted development rights for telecoms in England have recently been proposed and will be presented to parliament*.

We at MBNL are happy to undertake workshops with LPAs and local councils so they are fully prepared for the changes and understand the implications on MNOs’ permitted development rights.

MBNL instructs agents to act on our behalf for planning application matters. Agents follow key guidance and process to start engagement with LPAs and to prepare the necessary applications.

More sensitive locations, such as conservation areas, listed buildings, and national parks may require extensive engagement – whether it be with local interest groups, communities, or organisations, such as Historic England.

The importance of detailed and appropriate engagement can pay dividends when applications are being considered. MBNL works hard to ensure all key stakeholders are involved throughout this process.

Permitted development rights allow the MNOs to install equipment without the need for a formal application, which can sometimes be confusing when new equipment is installed. In essence, the permitted development rights involve more minor forms of development, and the process is usually through a simple notification to the LPA.

MBNL’s agents will prepare all the submissions and manage the process, but what happens if we don’t obtain planning consent? Within the planning legislation there is a right to appeal and MBNL will support agents to prepare and submit appeals to the Planning Inspectorate.

The installation of telecoms equipment is the responsibility of the MNOs, but MBNL is able to liaise directly with planning officers, councillors, and key stakeholders if there is the perception there may have been a breach of planning control. MBNL can provide guidance and advice as to what has been proposed and what has been installed to assure key stakeholders.

MBNL also follows the best practice commitments established in the Code of Practice (CoP). The devolved authorities all have their own Code of Practice, but in particular for England, MBNL is currently in the process of reviewing CoP with the government, and it is anticipated the new CoP will be issued along with the revisions to English permitted development rights.

It is important to maintain a good relationship with LPAs to explain the complex legislative processes – and to address concerns from the general public.

MBNL is committed to collaborating with all involved in the planning process to help ensure the UK is best placed to benefit from world-class communications technology.

*New planning laws came into effect in England on 4th April.  See Mobile UK’s news for more details.