Could South Ribble join campaign to snatch back control of 5G masts by UK councils?

South Ribble could join the throng of local councils wanting to seize back control of 5G masts popping up all over the UK.

By Brian Ellis
Thursday, 27th January 2022, 9:25 am

The authority will debate the divisive subject at a meeting tonight, with councillors calling for a change in planning laws to prevent the telecoms giants siting monopoles up to 30-metres high where they please.

A notice of motion will be presented to the full council by two Lib-Dem members who want South Ribble to write to local MPs and Communities Minister Michael Gove asking for fresh legislation to curb the proliferation of masts under the current roll-out of 5G technology.

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Councils say they are powerless to stop phone masts going up.

The motion, to be proposed by Coun Angela Turner and seconded by Lib-Dem leader Coun David Howarth, will call on the council to "express its concern" over the rules which allow telecoms companies a free hand to build where they like under the category of permitted development.

Councillors will be asked to vote on a proposal which says: "This council calls on the Government to bring the siting of all telecommunications equipment back under planning control, and require full planning permission for all telecommunications masts in residential areas regardless of their height, enabling residents and communities to have a say in decisions which directly impact upon them."

The notice of motion also raises concern that "despite the adverse impact on the amenity of local residents and the street scene, the National Planning Policy Framework places an unreasonable expectation on planning authorities to approve such applications and the propensity for any appeal against refusal to favour the applicants, removing all rights of reply from those who will be affected the most."

And it goes on: "Council therefore resolves to write to our local Members of Parliament to seek their support, and to Michael Gove the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to urge that planning legislation is amended accordingly."

The 5G roll-out has boosted connectivity for many people.

Like other councils across the UK, South Ribble has ticked through numerous applications for telecoms masts in recent years. There have been at least 77 roadside poles installed in the borough since 1996, ranging in height from 10-metres to 25-metres.

Critics call the new phone towers "the ugly side of 5G" and say they are intrusive and spoil the scenery.

But the vast benefits of the technology have been seen during the Covid pandemic, with millions able to work from home, access education and keep in touch with loved ones during lockdown.

Matt Warman, Minister for Digital Infrastructure, said: "At a time of national crisis, telecommunications has provided a lifeline for people across the UK.

"It is clear, now more than ever, that digital connectivity is vital to our communities, business and essential public services, and will only become more important in future. We need to ensure that the UK has world class digital infrastructure to support this.

"This government is committed to delivering nationwide gigabit-capable coverage so that we can improve the speed, resilience and reliability of broadband for consumers and businesses across the UK.

"It is key to the UK remaining globally competitive. It is also critical to the effective deployment of 5G mobile networks, which will deliver faster and better mobile broadband and enable new innovations in industry sectors like manufacturing, health and transport."