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Mixed Response to Consultation on UK Broadband Planning Changes

Friday, Jun 7th, 2013 (2:05 pm) - Score 855

The Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has today published some very mixed responses to their recent consultation on proposals to change the siting requirements for broadband street cabinets and overhead lines, which is intended to facilitate the deployment of superfast broadband around the United Kingdom.

The consultation forms part of the government’s on-going efforts to adopt new primary and secondary legislation (e.g. the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013) that would soften the existing planning rules and hopefully make it cheaper, quicker and easier to roll-out the new services to 90% of the country by the end of 2015; as planned through the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) framework.

The various packages included a proposal, subject to consultation, that for five years, broadband street cabinets and new poles can be installed under permitted development rights in any location, other than a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), without the need for prior approval from local planning authorities

Overall a total of 95 responses to the consultation were received from a range of organisations, including local authorities, ISPs, civic amenity societies, heritage and environmental bodies and members of the public. It’s noted that “practically all” of the responses agreed with the overall policy objective to improve broadband connectivity, although there were also some significant disagreements.

In particular 71% of respondents disagreed with the method of achieving this (comprising mainly local planning authorities, civic societies and bodies with an interest in preserving the environment) and highlighted concerns about the risks that the proposal may have in terms of an “adverse effect on the visual amenity, particularly in terms of a possible proliferation of new poles across the country“.

The 29% in support comprised of ISPs, businesses and the majority of county councils. They agreed that the proposals would be a valuable support in speeding up and reducing costs associated with planning in rolling out superfast broadband, particularly in difficult to reach areas.

The Government’s Response:

We recognise the concerns put forward regarding the impact on the potential impact on visual amenity and how CPs would ensure the siting and appearance of apparatus was handled sensitively.

[However] the Government will be proceeding with the proposals as outlined in the consultation document and will be bringing forward amendments to regulations that relax the restrictions on the deployment of overhead telecoms infrastructure and allowing broadband cabinets can be deployed in protected areas except SSSIs without prior approval from local planning authorities for a period of five years.”

Similarly 56% of respondents also disagreed with the duration of the proposed changes being limited to 5 years. The great majority of those who disagreed were mostly heritage groups and local authorities with responsibility for planning, many of which were concerned that any damage to “visual amenity” would most likely occur within the 5 year window.

Instead those who disagreed proposed for the 5 year window to be reduced to 2 or 3 years and for regular reviews within that time to assess the impact of the policy on the environment. However the government also shunned many of the alternative proposals.

The Government’s Response:

The Government believes that 5 years provides the right balance of incentivising deployment of superfast broadband to act as an enabler for growth and, along with the Code of Practice.”

The consultation outcome document also included a draft of the new Cabinet Siting and Pole siting Code of Practice, which sets out the various rules and regulations for how the new infrastructure should be deployed.

Separately the government are also continuing to consult on softening the existing planning regulations to allow for easier building of new masts and antennas (here), which is due to close in mid-June 2013.

Summary of Consultation Responses (PDF)

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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