THE TELECOMS MAST WORKING GROUP
The idea of a mast working group to function within the
Forest of Dean District Council using the knowledge and experience of local
people was first mooted at the Telecoms Mast Issues Meeting of July 2003. PLACE
supported this idea and from November ’03 – March ’04 it worked with Councillor
Stephen McMillan to set up such a group. Potential members of the group
including PLACE met in March ‘04, with the first formal meeting of the full
group taking place on 8th June 2004. This meeting was attended by the
Cllrs. Stephen McMillan, John Clissold, Venk Shenoi, Andrew
Chief Planner – Sean Hannaby
Ben Lennon – Forest Enterprise
Andrew Darke – PLACE
Helen Evans – Lydbrook Residents Group
The aspirations of the group were:
- Council Website to be regularly
updated with information on all proposed new developments and changes to
- Council Polices regarding Telecomms
to be reviewed and updated.
- To make sure all new developments are
up to or above current standards of best practice.
- An assessment of the current state of
mast sites to be produced – the Photographic Survey as proposed to the
Countryside Agency by PLACE. Document to be produced: “Views, Vistas and
- To achieve over time a number of best
practice examples of siting, design, colouring, and screening of base stations
in the Forest of Dean in order that these can become a recognized standard
best practice approach. These examples can then be published nationally.
- Two public meetings – one in the
Council Offices, one at Newent.
- Discover if any other councils have
projects concerned with telecomms issues and if so visit to learn of other
- Educate Councillors and Officers, by
inviting lectures from the companies, going to conferences etc.
Note that the work of the TMWG and
the photographic survey ran concurrently.
See below for final report.
Forest of Dean District Council
A Report from the Telecommunication Mast Working Group
A Telecommunications Mast Working
Group (TMWG) chaired by Councillor Stephen McMillan and comprised of
Councillors Mick Butler, Andrew Gardiner, and Venk Shenoi, planning officers,
Ben Lennon from Forest Enterprise, Andrew Darke from PLACE, a group of artists
/ initiators, and Helen Evans from Lydbrook Parish Council, was established in
late 2003 to examine the process of pre-application consultation by
PLACE had been working with the FoDDC
and the then Countryside Agency (CA) on the telecommunications issue for three
years and had previously assisted the FoDDC Planning Department in the
Revision of their SUPPLEMENTARY PLANNING GUIDANCE ON TELECOMMUNICATIONS MASTS.
As a result of PLACE’s lobbying and earlier work in the field the CA called a
public meeting on telecommunications issues in July 2003 and a Working Group
was suggested. The need for this working group was further reinforced by some
local mast planning applications and installations creating a level of
conflict where the local community did not feel they had been properly or
effectively consulted in the decision making process. As a parallel issue,
the group looked at how the design of installations could be influenced within
the pre-application consultation process.
To start with the major network
operators were asked to provide written information. Having received this,
the group determined that inviting direct operator participation was not
necessary. The group decided that there was enough information available to
determine that local people could and should be involved in a process that
could ultimately raise the level of consensus about the type, location, and
design of telecommunications equipment and its installation.
The operators have made a commitment
to provide local planning authorities with annual rollout plans for each area.
These indicate where new installations are required. The Council will
endeavour to create a dialogue with the companies to make sure that sufficient
clear information is presented that can be better communicated to communities.
The original objectives of the group
have been achieved and the outcomes from the Working Group’s activity are:
5.1. Draft Supplementary Planning Guidance that the Council’s planning
department can use to make sure that telecommunications companies stick to the
commitments they have made as an industry to consultation with communities.
The fact that this exists will demonstrate to the operating companies that
Forest of Dean takes their work seriously and expects them to reciprocate.
This guidance was approved by the Development Control Working Group on May 23rd 2005
5.2. A comprehensive set of information has been published on the council’s
website so that communities have access to some guidance on the process, and
can be more informed about the level of involvement they can expect. (We
acknowledge Basingstoke and Dean Borough Council on whose work we based our
5.3. The council planning department are currently working on aggregating the
annual submissions from the telecommunications companies to create an overview
plan of future activity. When complete, this plan will be placed on the
council website, and will show the operator’s areas of search for mast
installations, and give background information on how the public can influence
installations within their area.
5.4. Additional training for members has been agreed as being beneficial by
officers. The first priority has been decided to be expert input from a third
party to facilitate the learning process regarding the planning regime
surrounding telecommunications equipment installation. In addition one or
more telecommunications companies will be invited to the Council offices to
give members a perspective from their point of view. If there is sufficient
interest and demand, interested members from the community may also be able to
Elements of learning have also been an
outcome of this particular exercise.
6.1. A working group in a small District Council, that is going to meet over a
long period, needs administrative support to deal with minute taking, meeting
arranging, letter writing and witness arrangements if the members of the group
are not to suffer from overload. The chairman of this group carried out all
of these tasks and the process suffered because of this.
6.2. The minutes and agendas of meeting should be published on the web site
and intranet for all public and members to see.
6.3. If external people are to be engaged in a process such as this and have
to secure funding to support their contribution, and a request for recognition
of this fact is made of the council, we should have a process to provide this
in a neutral but supportive way.
6.4.The council should not be afraid of using information where it is found in
other authorities, provided proper acknowledgement is made.
I would like to express my thanks to
all who participated in this exercise, and made it a valuable learning
Councillor Stephen McMillan