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Meeting of the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 31/01/2006
Exploring Current Issues Regarding Mobile Telephone Technology - In-Depth Review



Summary & Purpose
The purpose of this report is to review the information gathered to date as part of the Committee’s in depth review of current issues regarding mobile telephone technology, to identify areas for further study and to give consideration to those issues which might be the subject of recommendations to the Council’s Executive.

APPENDIX B

Waverley Borough Council

Environment and Leisure Overview and scrutiny Committee

31ST January 2006

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Title:
EXPLORING CURRENT ISSUES REGARDING MOBILE TELEPHONE
TECHNOLOGY – IN DEPTH REVIEW
[Wards Affected: All]
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Summary and purpose:

The purpose of this report is to review the information gathered to date as part of the Committee’s in depth review of current issues regarding mobile telephone technology, to identify areas for further study and to give consideration to those issues which might be the subject of recommendations to the Council’s Executive.

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Environmental implications:

The report explores the environmental implications of siting mobile phone masts. The Council’s approach is to look at what would be the most appropriate site for a mast from the point of view of functionality and its impact on the environment and also at would be the most appropriate design for the location. The design of masts is continually evolving and the report explores the possibilities in terms of appearance and type of masts used in urban and rural locations.

Social / community implications:

As part of the consultation exercise carried out by Surrey Social and Market Research (SSMR) for this review, a survey of local residents was undertaken. The report explores whether there is a need to carry out any further research on the views of the local community.

E-Government implications:

There are no direct e-government implications as a result of the recommendations in this report. However, a map showing the location of all telecommunications masts in the Borough will be published on the Council’s website.

Resource and legal implications:

There are no direct legal implications as a result of the recommendation of this report. Resource implications are contained throughout the report.

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Introduction

1. At its meeting on 25th May 2005, the Committee agreed the terms of reference for its review of current issues regarding mobile telephone technology. The review commenced with a special meeting held on 28th November when evidence was received from invited witnesses on a range of issues including the current planning policy regarding mobile telephone masts, the future plans of the mobile telephone operators, the concerns of local residents regarding the location of mobile phone masts, the main features of the Police communications system known as TETRA and finally the health and safety issues associated with mobile telephone usage. The minutes of the meeting were circulated to Members on 3rd January 2006. For ease of reference a copy of the minutes are attached as Annexe 1.

2. In the light of those presentations it is suggested that, as a next step, Members review the progress made towards addressing the questions outlined in the original scoping report, identify any areas for further study and give consideration to those issues on which the Committee might wish to make recommendations to the Executive.

Evaluation of information collected to date

4. The following paragraphs address the issues raised in the original scoping report and suggest the extent to which the information collected to date meets the terms of reference for the review.

q The introduction of a blanket embargo on any property dealings with mobile telephone operators – considered to be unrealistic and unsustainable;

q To promote suitable sites only – considered to be open to criticism; or

q To adopt a balanced role by responding to proposals from the mobile telephone operators as and when these arose and to make individual conclusions on the merits or otherwise of each proposal.

(iii) Location of masts currently located in the Borough

(v) What recent developments have been made in technology and what infrastructure will network suppliers require in future?

These two issues were covered in some detail by Ms Nicola Davidson of the Mobile Operators Association in her presentation to the Committee. However, Members are asked to consider whether they wish to receive any further information or clarification on the issues raised in the presentation.

During the question and answer session at the meeting, reference was made to the annual roll-out plans which the operators are now required to produce for local planning authorities and other organisations setting out their likely requirements in terms of the provision of telecommunications masts and coverage over the coming twelve months. It is anticipated that the next roll-out plans will be published in October this year.

The Executive has already recognised that the roll-out plans would be an appropriate subject for examination at a future Development Control Forum. It is therefore suggested that such a forum takes place immediately following the publication of the plans in order to formulate a Council view on what is proposed. Such an event would also provide an opportunity to obtain the views of Town and Parish Councils as well as local residents and mast action groups. Officers are currently talking to the mobile telephone operators about this piece of work and it is suggested that the Committee would wish to welcome this initiative.

(vi) What issues have other Councils faced?

(vii) What are the health implications of mobile telephone technology?

(viii) What impact do mobile telephone masts have on the environment?
Outcomes of the review

5. Whilst the scoping report set out the terms of reference for the review in some detail, there was only very general comment on what might be the possible outcomes of the review. In the light of the issues discussed in this report, there would appear to be at least four outcomes:

q An acknowledgement that the planning process has limitations, with the presumption being in favour of supporting telecommunications development, and that the Council therefore has little discretion to influence decisions. q A better understanding on the part of Members regarding the limited powers available to local planning authorities in determining planning applications for telecommunication masts, and the different permission regimes, so that they are well equipped to deal with concerns and enquiries from their constituents and local action groups. q An undertaking by officers to keep Members informed of all developments in this fast-changing subject, by keeping a watching brief and reporting to Members on any opportunities that there might be to strengthen the Council’s policies. q Given that there is very little scope to take action at the local level, it may be that the Council would wish to support the work of national lobbying groups, such as the LGA, on all matters affecting mobile telephone technology.

Conclusion

6. It would appear from the above paragraphs that the majority of the issues outlined in the original scoping report on mobile telephone technology have been addressed by the special meeting of this Committee and the public consultation exercise carried out by SSMR. However, there remain a number of questions that Members may decide need further examination prior to the preparation of a final report to the Executive. Members are invited to consider the following issues:

(a) Should the Council make representations to central government on giving local planning authorities greater control over the determination of planning applications for telecommunications masts?

(b) Is there a need for the Council to review its policy as landowner in respect of the location of masts and antennae?

(c) Is there a need for the Council to have a specific policy on the use of mobile technology by Members and officers?

(d) Is further research required on the views of the local community?

(e) Do Members require any further clarification of the issues raised by the mobile operators in their presentation at the special meeting on 28th November?

(f) Do Members support the proposal that the roll-out plans for 2007 should be the subject of a Development Control Forum in October/November this year?

(g) Do Members wish to receive any further information on the studies undertaken by other Councils?

(h) Do Members believe that the Council should make representations to either the LGA or central Government that the current approach to the assessment of health considerations needs to be revisited?

(i) Is there is any value in the Council undertaking its own monitoring of radiation emissions from telecommunication masts?

(j) Does the Committee wish to receive any further information on the design of masts?

(k) Does the Committee have any observations on the suggested outcomes of the review set out in paragraph above?

Recommendation

It is recommended that:

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Background Papers (CEx)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.

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CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Mrs Sue Petzold Telephone: 01483 523202

E-mail: spetzold@waverley.gov.uk

Comms/o&s3/2005-06/075