The Bill that is intended to remove some of the costly red tape associated with broadband roll-out is slowly progressing and as part of the proposals the DCMS has launched a consultation process that will run until 13th March 2013.
"b) Overhead lines
2.15. Currently, the Electronic Communications Code (Conditions and Restrictions) Regulations 2003, state that (in addition to a number of other minor exceptions) all new telecoms lines have to be buried underground, except where lines already exist, or if there is no viable alternative. This is the only restriction that stops communications providers from deploying this type of overhead infrastructure, which is already allowed under planning Permitted Development Rights, as telegraph poles are generally less than 15 metres high.
2.16. Currently for broadband cabinets in non-protected areas, communication providers are required to give one month’s statutory notice of siting to planning authorities and make changes if they are reasonable and proportionate. Under Part 24 of the General Permitted Development Order 1995 (as amended) local planning authorities are required to consider siting and design for cabinets in protected areas. Communications providers are required to give 56 days’ notice to planning authorities, who can place conditions on both siting and appearance. Deployment cannot proceed if the planning authority objects."Current planning rules for broadband hardware
The proposals are calling for a relaxation of these rules for a period of five years, i.e. to allow operators such as Openreach to deploy overhead fibre networks in areas where currently the copper network is directly buried, without the cost of installing ducting. Additionally overhead deployment may encourage alternative operators to deploy in areas where even micro-trenching makes the investment case unattractive. The changes to the rules for cabinets are that the shorter notice period is only required, with the full planning application only needed for sites of special scientific interest, rather than SSSI and conservation areas.
The retention of at least notifying the council does mean there is a back stop to stop silly deployments where the decision has been made in an office using maps and Google Streetview which can be out of date. Though with just a basic notification there is a risk of increased nimby complaints when a cabinet mysteriously appears without the usual planning application notice appearing.
An important point to make is that these changes only apply to cabinets and poles and does not apply to masts used for mobile infrastructure.
"3.5 In discussions on clause 8 in the House of Commons concerns were raised that clause 8 would be used to relax planning requirements for masts, because the clause makes no distinction between fixed and mobile infrastructure. This is because of EU regulatory requirements for the communications sector - Article 8(1) of the Framework Directive requires technology neutrality so far as the primary implementing legislation is concerned. The intention as this consultation makes clear, is that use of the clause will be limited to fixed communications infrastructure – cabinets and poles."Extract highlighting changes are NOT for mobile network masts