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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


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 following:

Cllrs. Stephen McMillan, John Clissold, Venk Shenoi, Andrew Gardiner

Chief Planner – Sean Hannaby

Ben Lennon – Forest Enterprise

Andrew Darke – PLACE

Helen Evans – Lydbrook Residents Group


The aspirations of the group were:

  1. Council Website to be regularly updated with information on all proposed new developments and changes to existing sites.
  2. Council Polices regarding Telecomms to be reviewed and updated.
  3. To make sure all new developments are up to or above current standards of best practice.
  4. 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 Reverie.” 
  5. 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.
  6. Two public meetings – one in the Council Offices, one at Newent.
  7. Discover if any other councils have projects concerned with telecomms issues and if so visit to learn of other approaches.
  8. 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.


Telecoms Mast Working Group

Forest of Dean District Council

A Report from the Telecommunication Mast Working Group

  1. 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 telecommunications companies.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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 output).

    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 participate.

  6. 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.

  7. I would like to express my thanks to all who participated in this exercise, and made it a valuable learning experience.

Councillor Stephen McMillan
June 2005
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