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Photographic Survey of
the Intrusion of Telecommunications Infrastructure in Landscape
views home   introduction   base stations   the Crieff solution   the telecoms mast working group   case studies   conclusion   curios


It is important to consider why so little, and in most cases no care, other than for technical efficacy, has been exercised in the siting of these structures in landscape.

This new technology, as most these days, is conceived, designed, built and advertised by people dwelling in cities. The design process needs to be more closely connected to the end use environment of the product. There is less care and respect for rural landscapes. This apparent failure of sensibility in the design / build arena is certainly caused in part by the myopic attention to profit, to the exclusion and detriment of other concerns, which many large companies display. This has been compounded by two further failures in governance and regulation, by the Tory administrations of 1979-97 and the subsequent Labour administrations since 1997.  The scene was set in the mid 80s when the Tory government, with eye firmly set on a new industry being allowed to make a fast buck, saw fit to place all mobile phone base station development below 15m in height under the General Permitted Development Orders(GPDOs). A system which continues to give astonishing and unreasonable freedom from planning restriction. Since then the Stewart Report of 2000, and the *All Party Parliamentary Mobile Group (apMobile) Report of July 2004 have both recommended that all mast developments should have to go through full planning procedures. A further three Private Members Bills have been before Parliament in 2004 which call for the revocation of PDOs. So far the government has ignored all these recommendations although minor adjustments have been made to give protesters more time to make opposing submissions to planning authorities. In Scotland however, since 2001, all new ground based mobile phone masts do require full planning permission.

Visual amenity issues can be the cause of planning refusals and Phil Willis MP, Chairman of apMobile, believes that planning authorities should be exercising their powers to influence design and siting more strongly – the law is there to be used. This is an area where, in theory, the public can get involved and ask planners to require better standards of design and siting. However PLACE’s experience demonstrates how, despite the most rigorous and consistent engagement with the Telecoms Mast Working Group (which included a number of councillors and the chief planner along with PLACE) of the Forest of Dean District Council over 18 months, progress is very slow. (See page 32).

It also remains the case that few base stations come anywhere near the standards of best practice as promoted by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister on its website.  www.planning.odpm.gov.uk


*PLACE gave oral and written evidence to the apMobile Parliamentary Inquiry in May 2004

The situation in the Forest of Dean is similar to many other rural areas with undulating topography. The wish of most of the rural population to have the same technical facilities for mobile telephony and internet connection as urban populations is causing more and more invasion of tranquil areas by technical infrastructure.  The unique landscape of the Forest of Dean is becoming more urban.  There are now 46 mobile phone masts in the Forest of Dean District Council area and a number have caused vigorous ‘anti’ campaigns by locals. There are a further 5 Tetra masts and 5 TV broadcast masts, a roadside microwave link, a couple of ambulance station masts and small mast of unknown use near the Wigpool Waterworks making a grand total of 60 masts in the area.  Masts are being sited in pure woodland at heights which break the tree canopy, long views and vistas are being compromised and more and more equipment is being added to already existing masts causing them to become more of an eyesore and visually ‘aggressive.’  Base stations are also regularly being sited too close for comfort to local communities. 


It can be said with confidence that the experiences captured in this survey can be extrapolated to cover most parts of the UK, with the exception of the National Parks and some of the most remote parts of Britain. That the precious and internationally famous British landscape heritage is once again under a sustained attack by a careless industry and an inefficient, poorly thought through regulatory system is indisputable. Greater investment at the time of making other major infrastructures – roads, railways, National Grid could have reduced their impact. However, it is not necessary to spend more to make the mobile telephone infrastructure less intrusive; just more care, diligence and a thoroughgoing commitment to have more respect for the environment!


In most cases even the simplest painting with appropriate camouflaging colour and planting around the compound has been omitted. The mobile phone companies, the government, and local authority planning departments must jointly bear the responsibility for this grievous lack of respect for the environment and community.


It remains perfectly possible, nay simple, using current technology, to weave the technical infrastructure of mobile telephony into the landscape and community in a much less intrusive and damaging way than current practice.

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