17th January 2006
The former reservoir site stands on the north side of Thorncliffe Road between the borough cemetery and Thorncliffe School. There is a screen of mature trees that form the boundary with the cemetery, whilst the rest of the site is relatively open in nature. The location for the mast is within 5 metres of the boundary with the cemetery, some 85 metres from the frontage with the highway, and some 45 metres south of an existing telecommunications mast, for which consent was granted in 1999. That installation consists of a 15 metres high slim line monopole, incorporating 3 vertical antennae and 2 dish antennae, set within a fenced compound that also contains a mix of equipment cabinets.
The application before you is for a 17.5 metres high monopole mast topped with 3 pairs of vertical antennae and a single dish, set within a secure compound that also contains the equipment cabinets. The technical assessment for the mast indicates that it is needed in order to upgrade the network coverage for the area from 2G to 3G, and to replace an existing installation on the adjacent school tower. The lease on that equipment expires in 2006 and is not being renewed. The operator has examined the possibility of a mast share with the adjacent freestanding facility, but this structure is also a slim line mast and does not have the structural capacity to accommodate both networks. The mast would need to be upgraded to a much more robust structure that would have a greater visual impact upon the surrounding area.
The Government’s approach to telecommunications is contained within PPG8. This states that it is the Governments stance that the planning system should facilitate growth of the telecommunications network, whilst minimising the environmental impact. Within the document there is guidance given upon health related issues. The view is that the planning system is not the appropriate mechanism for determining health safeguards but this should be left to the Government who have issued related guidelines for radiation emissions. Planning authorities should not implement their own precautionary policies by imposing a ban on development or insist upon minimum distances between site and residential areas. Mobile phones and their base stations transmit and receive radio signals using electromagnetic waves. The Governments advisors are the National Radiological Protection Board (N.R.P.B.) who widely provides information on health matters relating to electromagnetic waves. Subsequently, the guidelines on exposure levels have also been published by the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (I.C.N.I.R.P.), which also works closely with the United Nations and the World Health Organisation. In recognition of public concerns about the health implications of mobile phones and their base stations the government set up a review body that produced the Stewart report. This concluded that whilst radiation was generated, the balance of evidence was that exposure to levels below the N.R.P.B. and I.C.N.I.R.P. guidelines did not cause adverse health effects to the general population. As a result of the Stewart Report, all telecommunication operators, when submitting planning applications, must provide suitable certification to show that their equipment will operate within the recognised guidelines. The appropriate certificate has been provided in this case.
Consequently, planning authorities are obliged to deal with the application on the basis of its design and siting only. Policy D54 in the local plan identifies a series of criteria against which applications for telecommunications developments should be judged. In terms of these criteria;
the structure has been designed as a slim line mast to minimise its visual impact and is indicated as being positioned close to the tree screen, although it stands some 5 metres above the tree line. This is inevitable as the system works on a “line of sight” principle in order to receive and distribute signals.
Mast sharing and the use of adjacent structures is not an option as explained above, so a free standing facility is required in this case
The materials and design raise no adverse issues except that a matt paint finish would be necessary rather than the galvanised effect that is indicated.
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