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Rural and Countryside Groups Oppose Planning Changes to Boost Broadband

Monday, Nov 5th, 2012 (8:24 am) - Score 698

The English National Park Authorities Association (ENPAA), Open Spaces Society (OSS) and Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) have warned that the government’s plan to relax planning rules, which could boost the deployment of UK superfast broadband and 4G mobile services, risks damaging the countryside and other green spaces.

The Growth and Infrastructure Bill (GIB) includes various provisions for cutting red tape in the existing planning system, which would for example make it easier and cheaper to deploy new 4G masts, fibre optic cables and or street cabinets in areas that might have previously been protected or difficult to gain approval for.

Nobody expected such sweeping changes to go unopposed and now a number of preservation groups are worried about the impact that it could have on the countryside, not to mention traditional town and village greens. A recent statement from the CPRE warned that the bill required “significant change” or it could result in “lasting damage to the attractiveness of the countryside, less affordable housing and more delays as a result of legal and direct action.”

Shaun Spiers, CEO of CPRE, says:

This Bill is a depressing attack on the protection of the countryside, just months after the damaging and distracting debate on the National Planning Policy Framework. It is also a centralising measure, a serious departure from the Government’s welcome commitment to localism.

These proposals will now be scrutinised by Parliament, and we hope MPs and Peers will ensure that the final legislation contributes to sustainable development, rather than undermining it. CPRE will work both with Parliamentarians and the Government to try to make this happen.”

Kate Ashbrook, General Secretary of the OSS, said:

The [bill] will make it difficult, if not downright impossible, to register land as a town or village green once it has been identified for development—even if that identification is a well-kept secret. So the rug is being pulled from under us without giving us a chance to save our spaces.

The government’s proposals will put an instant end to the ability of local people to protect their much-loved spaces. This is a developers’ charter.”

A Leaked Internal ENPAA Document warned (The Guardian):

We have seen no evidence that national park purposes have unduly hampered broadband or mobile communications delivery or justification for such a change to well-established legislation, and reject the inference that national park status has been a barrier to the roll-out of mobile/broadband technologies.

Parliament has established national parks with a clear purpose to protect their landscapes, wildlife and heritage and it is not appropriate to pick and choose when such protection should be afforded, and when not.”

The bill, which is intended to support the government’s £1bn effort to roll-out of superfast broadband services to 90% of people by March 2015 and to ensure that faster mobile broadband services reach “at least” 98% of people by 2017, is due to be debated imminently.

But it’s fast becoming clear that the government probably won’t be able to push through all of its most desired changes. On top of that these are measures that should of been up for debate well over a year ago and may now risk coming too late to have much of an impact.

Meanwhile the government’s minister for planning, Nick Boles MP, remains adamant that the GIB will ensure that “democratic checks and balances and environmental safeguards remain in place”. Clearly many have their doubts about that.

Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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