The UK Parliament has published a new Bill which will address environmental and health concerns that continue to dog telecommunications operators, when the proposed site of a telecommunications mast is near a school or hospital (or other medical facility).

The Telecommunications Masts (Planning Control) Bill addresses planning issues which apply solely to England and Wales, including a requirement on the operator to provide a "precautionary principle statement" concerning the environmental and health effects of the apparatus, and a certificate providing details of the range and intensity of radiofrequency radiation from the apparatus.

Scotland has its own separate planning regime and limitations that apply to telecomms masts in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 2) Order 2001, and the Scottish Executive's planning policy for telecommunications contained in NPPG19 - Radio Telecommunications and the complementary planning advice note, PAN62 - Radio Telecommunications.  The Bill does however propose amendments to both the Telecommunications Act 1984 and the Communications Act 2003, both of which apply to the whole of the UK. 

Acknowledging concerns over the potential effect of telecommunications masts and equipment, the Bill will mean that a telecomms operator will not be able to obtain an order under the 1984 Act to use land or premises for telecommunications apparatus, if the land or premises are used for an educational, nursery or medical facility.

It will also be possible for medical or educational bodies (including proprietors of the facility or establishment in question) to apply for an order for existing telecommunications masts and associated apparatus to be removed from land or premises that are used for medical or health related purposes, or for education (including as a nursery), and that, presumably, despite the existence of an agreement or other documentation between the parties in respect of the apparatus.  If the land or premises were acquired by compulsory purchase under the 2003 Act, the medical or educational body can require that the land or premises are returned to their original owner. Only 28 days notice is required to be given by the body for the removal of equipment from the land affected, or reversion of the land to the original owner, following on which the courts can order the discontinuation of use and removal of all masts and equipment and reversion of the land.  All transmissions will have to cease within twenty-eight days from the date of such an order, and equipment must be removed not later than 3 months from that date, all without any compensation being payable.  The new provisions will not apply to public telephone boxes nor to antennae or radio equipment which cannot be used in connection with a telecommunications mast.

The Bill is not expected to get its second reading in the House of Commons until late February or early March 2006, at which stage more detail may emerge.  In the meantime the full text of the bill can be accessed from the website of the UK parliament at

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmbills/026/2006026.htm

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