Publication - Consultation paper

Permitted development rights - phase 1 priority development types: consultation

Published: 1 Oct 2020

Consultation on draft proposals for changes and extensions to Permitted Development Rights (PDR) in Scotland for the priority development types selected for inclusion in Phase 1 of our programme. Consultation closes on 12 November 2020.

Permitted development rights - phase 1 priority development types: consultation
4. Digital Telecommunications Infrastructure

4. Digital Telecommunications Infrastructure

4.1 The Scottish Government is committed to reviewing permitted development rights (PDR) for digital communications infrastructure to assist in enhancing and rolling out vital and improved digital communications (e.g. the rollout of 5G) for all regions of Scotland. This has become even more important given our reliance on digital communications during the Covid-19 pandemic. The benefits of enhanced digital connectivity also result in less travel which contributes significantly towards climate change measures by reducing our carbon footprint.

4.2 Planning has an important role to play in strengthening digital communications capacity and coverage across Scotland and extensions to PDR can support this. Our proposals therefore mainly aim to:

  • increase existing size limits for PDR for digital infrastructure, i.e. new masts, extensions to existing masts, antennae and other equipment on buildings, equipment cabinets on the ground and on buildings, other apparatus, and underground equipment; and
  • extend PDR for some types of digital infrastructure into sensitive areas, subject to lower size/height limits than elsewhere.

4.3 In extending PDR, we appreciate that there are tensions between supporting connectivity with its economic and climate change benefits and the potential environmental impact, particularly on sensitive areas. We want to get the balance right. We do not propose to extend PDR for new masts into any designated areas as part of this consultation. National Planning Framework 4 will incorporate any changes to Scottish Planning Policy and we consider that any significant changes to PDR within designated areas should form part of that review process.

Background

4.4 Class 67 of the GPDO[4] and the Amendment Order 2017[5] sets out PDR which apply to Electronic Communications Code Operators (ECCO). A number of general conditions apply to Class 67 with regard to notification arrangements and the appearance of developments.

4.5 A prior notification/prior approval regime applies to the siting and appearance of new ground based masts. This requires the developer to apply to the planning authority for a determination as to whether prior approval is required in respect of the siting and appearance of new ground based masts. In the case of equipment located on buildings, the development must minimise the effect on the external appearance of the building as far as is practicable. The prior notification/prior approval regime for new ground based masts works differently from standard prior notification/prior approval; Annex A contains some additional information.

4.6 There are a number of existing limitations on PDR which apply in certain designated areas and these are set out in Class 67(2). However, there are some exceptions as, for example, development is permitted in these areas if it would be carried out in an emergency or if the development would be the same, or smaller than, the apparatus/structure being altered or replaced. The current list of 'designated areas' is as follows:

  • Conservation Areas
  • Settings of Category A listed buildings and scheduled monuments
  • World Heritage Sites (WHS)
  • Historic Gardens and Designed Landscapes
  • Historic Battlefields
  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
  • National Parks
  • National Scenic Areas
  • European Sites (e.g. special protection areas and special areas of conservation)

4.7 The type of digital communications infrastructure considered in the review of PDR is set out in Chapter 5 of the Sustainability Appraisal. The key issues identified and the options for the mitigation of negative effects have informed the development of the proposals in this consultation paper. Consultees are encouraged to consider the proposals in conjunction with Chapter 5 of the sustainability appraisal, Class 67 of the GPDO and the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2017.[6]

4.8 Please note that, in addition to the mitigation proposals outlined here, to support the implementation of future changes to PDR, we are currently reviewing and updating the good practice advice and guidance on the siting, design and installation/construction of digital telecommunications infrastructure contained in Planning Advice Note 62[7]. Revised guidance will be published which will help to ensure any potential negative impacts are mitigated in relation to the built and natural environment and air safety.

Proposals for Changes and Extensions to PDR for Digital Telecommunications Infrastructure

New Ground Based Masts

4.9 Current PDR allow for the construction or installation of new ground based masts up to 25 metres high outside designated areas and we propose to increase this height limit to 30 metres.

4.10 This will be subject to a continuing requirement that the developer must first apply to the planning authority for a determination as to whether its prior approval is required with regard to the siting and appearance of the development. This allows the planning authority to consider the siting and appearance of a proposal. The planning authority has 56 days from when an application for 'prior approval' is made within which to indicate if its prior approval is required and, if it is, to issue a decision on whether approval in respect of the siting and appearance is given or refused.

Q.1 Do you agree with an increase in permitted height for new ground based masts to 30 metres outside designated areas, subject to the existing prior approval regime on siting and appearance?

If you disagree, please explain why.

Note: In the following sections, any reference to using prior notification/ prior approval should be taken to mean the standard version. If you consider some other form of prior notification/ prior approval should apply, please signal this in your answer.

Existing Ground Based Masts

4.11 An operator may want to improve mobile coverage or carry out maintenance requiring alterations to or replacement of the original mast. According to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992 (as amended), an 'original mast' is defined as "the mast as it is first constructed or installed and includes any apparatus attached to the mast at that time (other than an antenna) and any plinth or other structure to which is was attached at that time".

4.12 Currently PDR exists for the replacement or alteration of an existing ground based mast. There are limitations on the increase of the overall height and/or width of the structure as follows:

  • If the ground based mast being altered is up to 20 metres in height, then the altered or replacement mast must not exceed the height of the original mast by 7 metres to a maximum of 25 metres.
  • For existing ground based masts above 20 metres, up to 50 metres in height, then the altered or replacement mast can only be up to 5 metres greater in height than the original mast.
  • In cases where the height of the existing mast is greater than 50 metres, the replacement or alteration of the mast must not add more than 15% to the height of the original mast.
  • The increase in width of the mast must not exceed one metre or, if greater, one third of the width of the original mast.
  • These height and width measurements include apparatus on the masts except antennas.
  • In case of replacement, the mast must not be situated more than 6 metres from the location of the original mast.

4.13 These PDR for changes and replacement of ground based masts apply in all areas including designated areas. We propose to amend the limits on the increase of the overall height and/or width of existing masts , as set out in the following questions.

Q.2 Do you agree that existing ground based masts should be able to be increased in height up to 30 metres (i.e. the same maximum height as for new masts proposed in Q.1 above) and that the increase should be limited to no more than 50% of the height of the original mast (whichever is the lower)?

If you disagree, please explain why.

Q.3 Do you agree that we should allow existing masts which are above 30 metres in height to be increased to up to 50 metres in height?

If you disagree, please explain why.

Q.4 Do you agree that we should allow existing masts which are greater than 50 metres in height to be increased by up to 20% of the height of the original mast?

If you disagree, please explain why.

Q.5 Do you agree that we should allow an increase in the width of existing masts by up to 2 metres or, if greater, one half of the width of the original mast (i.e. the increase is on the widest part of the mast and including any equipment)?

If you disagree, please explain why

Q.6 Do you agree that any height or width increase within a designated area should be subject to prior notification/prior approval in order that visual impacts can be assessed?

If you disagree, please explain why

Replacement masts

Q.7 Do you agree that we should increase the maximum distance that replacement masts may be from their original location from 6m to 10m, outside designated areas?

If you disagree, please explain why.

Q.8 Do you agree that in the case of replacement masts, in designated areas the current 6m distance from the original location should be retained?

If you disagree, please explain why

Mitigating potential impacts on safeguarded sites on PDR for masts

4.14 There are existing requirements on PDR for new masts, or for changes to height or location of existing masts, for the operator to notify the relevant body for a safeguarded area (e.g. the Secretary of State for Defence, airport operator, Met Office, NATS) for their comments to ensure the safe and efficient operation around an aerodrome or technical site.

Q.9 We propose to retain the current approach. Do you agree?

If you disagree, please explain why

Antenna Systems (please note that this does not apply to small cell systems - which are dealt with in paragraphs 4.18-4.22)

4.15 Antenna systems and dish antennas are classified as PDR provided that they meet a number of criteria. Different restrictions apply to antenna systems and dish antennas depending on their relative location on the building on which they are installed (below or above a height of 15 metres above ground level). These limitations do not apply to small antennas and small cell systems. Table 2 below summarises the conditions and restrictions in relation to the installation, replacement and alteration of dish antennas and other antenna systems on buildings.

4.16 Additionally, there is no PDR for dish antennas and antenna systems in designated areas unless it is carried out in an emergency or for the alteration or replacement of the existing dish antennas and antenna systems and the resulting apparatus would be no larger, the number of items no greater and the location substantially the same as what was there already

Table 2. Existing limits on PDR for dish antennas and other antenna systems on buildings

Location of Dish Antenna on Building

Below a height of 15 metres above ground level

Existing PDR

Class 67 PDR do not apply if:

  • It would exceed 0.9 metres;
  • the aggregate size of all dishes would exceed 4.5 metres; and
  • for alteration or replacement the size of the dish and/or the aggregate size of all dishes, if greater than the above limits, would be larger than the dish and/or the aggregate size of all dishes present before the change was made

Location of Dish Antenna on Building

Above a height of 15 metres above ground level

Existing PDR

Class 67 rights do not apply if:

  • It would exceed 1.3 metres;
  • the aggregate size of all dishes would exceed 10 metres; and
  • for alteration or replacement the size of the dish and/or the aggregate size of all dishes, if greater than the above limits, would be larger than the dish and/or the aggregate size of all dishes present before the change was made.

Location of Other Antenna on Building

Below a height of 15 metres above ground level

Existing PDR

Class 67 PDR do not apply if:

  • the number of antenna systems would exceed four; and
  • with alteration or replacement, the number of antenna systems, if greater than four, would be greater than the number of existing antenna systems on the building

Location of Other Antenna on Building

Above a height of 15 metres above ground level

Existing PDR

Class 67 PDR do not apply if:

  • the number of antenna systems would exceed five; and
  • with alteration or replacement, the number of antenna systems, if greater than five, would be greater than the number of antenna systems on the building before the change was made.

Q.10 Do you agree that the PDR for antenna systems on buildings outside designated areas should be as set out in Table 3 below?

If you disagree with an increase, please explain why.

Table 3. Proposed limits on PDR for dish antennas and other antenna systems on buildings

Location of Dish Antenna on Building

Up to a height of 15 metres above ground level

Proposal

Class 67 PDR do not apply if:

  • It would exceed 1.3 metres;
  • the aggregate size of all dishes would exceed 10 metres; and
  • for alteration or replacement, the size of the dish and/or the aggregate size of all dishes, if greater than the above limits, would be larger than the dish and/or the aggregate size of all dishes present before the change was made

Location of Dish Antenna on Building

Above a height of 15 metres above ground level

Proposal

No change proposed and current threshold remains in place.

Location of Other Antenna on Building

Below a height of 15 metres above ground level

Proposal

Class 67 PDR do not apply if:

  • the number of antenna systems would exceed five
  • with alteration or replacement, the number of antenna systems, if greater than five would be greater than the number of existing antenna systems on the building before the change was made.

Location of Other Antenna on Building

Above a height of 15 metres above ground level

Proposal

No change proposed and current threshold remains in place

4.17 As indicated in paragraph 4.18, the PDR for this sort of apparatus is currently limited. We are considering extending PDR for antenna systems on buildings to designated areas, and would welcome views on the following questions.

Q.11 Do you agree with extending PDR for antenna systems on buildings to all or some of the designated areas to which restrictions on PDR for such infrastructure currently applies?

Please indicate which designations should have extended PDR and why, or, if you disagree, please explain why.

Q.12 What controls should apply in designated areas for antenna systems on buildings and should there be any differentiation between area type (e.g. size and number limits, prior notification/ prior approval or greater restrictions in designations such as conservation areas and world heritage sites, to avoid any detrimental impact on the built environment in terms of any potential visual clutter etc.)?

Small Cell Systems

4.18 Small cell systems are generally deployed to add local capacity to the main radio coverage infrastructure.

4.19 The GPDO contains the following definitions:

  • 'small cell system means a 'small antenna' and any apparatus which is ancillary to that antenna.
  • 'small antenna' means an antenna which –
    • operates on a point to fixed multi point basis or area basis in connection with an electronic communications service';
    • may be described as a femtocell, picocell, metrocell or microcell antenna; and
    • which does not exceed, in two-dimensional measurement, a surface area of 5,000 square centimetres or a volume area of 50,000 cubic centimetres.

4.20 We are proposing to extend PDR beyond small antennas to cover small cell systems (small antennas and ancillary apparatus) on dwellinghouses and on all buildings in conservation areas. This will bring these buildings into line with other buildings as regards PDR for small cell systems.

4.21 The number, sizing, scaling and siting of small antennas and small cell

systems currently permitted on buildings are defined in Class 67(2)(b) (c) and (11) (12) (13). Table 4 sets out the current PDR for small antennas that needs to change to small cell systems.

Table 4. Current limits on PDR for small antennas on dwellinghouses and other buildings in conservation areas

Location of Other Antenna on Building

Dwellinghouse (in a Conservation Area)

Proposal

  • There would be more than 2 small antennas on the dwellinghouse and its curtilage. The replacement or alteration of small antennas is allowed provided that the number of small antennas does not exceed the number of existing small antennas
  • The small antenna must not be installed on a part of the dwellinghouse or its curtilage which fronts a road
  • The highest part of the antenna must not be higher than the highest part of the roof

Location of Other Antenna on Building

Building (in a Conservation Area) other than a dwellinghouse

Proposal

  • The maximum number of small antennas permitted is two.
  • The replacement or alteration of small cell systems is allowed provided that the number of small antennas does not exceed the number of existing antennas

4.22 The following questions relate to extending the PDR for small antennas on dwellinghouses and in conservation areas to small cell systems (which include small antennae plus ancillary equipment). We recognise that in conservation areas it may be difficult to increase PDR from small antennas to small cell systems and would therefore welcome your views on what should be permitted.

Q.13 Do you agree that we should extend PDR to small cell systems on dwellinghouses (rather than just for small antennas)?

If you disagree, please explain why.

Q.14 What limitations and restrictions should apply to small cell systems on dwellinghouses (e.g. smaller units, fewer in number than small antennas under PDR)?

Please explain your answer.

Q15 In conservation areas, what limits or requirements should apply to small cell systems on dwellinghouses and other buildings (e.g. prior notification/ prior approval to assess the visual impacts or smaller/lower limits, different provisions for dwellinghouses compared to other buildings)?

Please explain your answer.

Article 57 of EU Directive 2018/1972

4.23 We are currently liaising with the UK Government, and the other devolved administrations, on potential amendments to PDR that may be considered necessary to be compliant with the requirements of Article 57 of EU Directive 2018/1972[8] and Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/1070[9].

4.24 We consider that with the changes to PDR for small cell systems on dwellinghouses and in conservation areas (even if those in conservation areas will require additional limitations or requirements), together with general proposals for PDR for new ground based cabinets in designated areas, we can meet the EU requirements.

Q.16 Do you agree that extending PDR for small cell systems as proposed and the proposed changes to PDR for new ground based cabinets in designated areas would meet the requirements of Article 57 of EU Directive 2018/1972?

If you disagree, please explain why.

Q.17 Are there any other potential amendments, comments or observations you wish to make in relation to potential changes to PDR that you consider necessary to be compliant with the requirements of Article 57 of EU Directive 2018/1972?

Equipment housing cabinets (ground based)

4.25 Equipment housing cabinets accommodate electronic equipment associated with antenna systems. Housing cabinets help to prevent electrical shock and protect the contents from the varying weather conditions and wider environmental impacts.

4.26 PDR that apply to the installation or alteration/replacement ground based equipment housing cabinets are included in Class 67(5) and (6), respectively and permit development which meets the following criteria:

  • the cabinet would not exceed 3 metres in height; or
  • the cabinet would not exceed 90 cubic metres in volume; or
  • for alteration or replacement; it would not exceed the height and/or volume of the equipment housing cabinet before alteration or replacement.

4.27 PDR are restricted in designated areas and are considered to apply to development only:

(i) if it is ancillary development to changes to ground based masts, telegraph poles or overhead lines under PDR; and/or

(ii) other than i) where the alteration or replacement of ground-based equipment housing is permitted in designated areas if the equipment housing would not be larger than what exists, is in substantially the same location, and does not increase the number of items of apparatus.

4.28 We have no plans to increase PDR for ground based equipment housing, outside designated areas. The changes we propose would be in addition to existing PDR in designated areas that may apply to ground based equipment housing – i.e. development consisting of the alteration or replacement of apparatus generally where the size and number of pieces of apparatus is the same or smaller and the location of apparatus is the same or substantially the same (unless specific restrictions in Class 67(2) apply). We propose to increase the volume of cabinets that enjoy PDR as set out in the following questions:

Q.18 Do you agree that we should extend existing PDR in designated areas to allow for new equipment housing up to 2.5 cubic metres volume?

If you disagree, please explain why.

Q.19 Should this be subject to prior notification/prior approval on the siting and appearance to mitigate visual impacts?

If you disagree, please explain why.

Q.20 If this were to be introduced do you agree that we should differentiate between types of designated areas by, for example, having smaller size limits in conservation areas than in National Parks?

If you disagree, please explain why and give your view on what limits should apply in which areas.

Equipment housing cabinets on buildings

4.29 Class 67(8) of the GPDO sets out the PDR for the construction, installation, replacement or alteration of equipment housing on a building. Equipment housing on buildings is classified as permitted development provided that the development meets the following criteria:

  • the equipment housing must not exceed 3 metres in height or 30 cubic metres in volume; and
  • the equipment housing must not exceed the height and/or the volume of the original equipment housing.

4.30 The alteration or replacement of equipment housing on buildings is permitted in designated areas provided the equipment housing would not be larger than existing, is in substantially the same location and does not increase the number of items of apparatus.

4.31 We have no plans to increase PDR for equipment housing on buildings outside designated areas but the sustainability appraisal highlighted potential changes to PDR and we are considering whether to extend existing PDR in designated areas.

4.32 The changes we propose would be in addition to existing PDR in designated areas that may apply to equipment housing on buildings, i.e. development consisting of the alteration or replacement of apparatus generally where the size and number of pieces of apparatus is the same or smaller and the location of apparatus is the same or substantially the same (unless specific restrictions in Class 67(2) apply). We propose to extend PDR for new equipment housing in designated areas as set out in the following questions.

Q.21 Do you agree that we should extend PDR for new equipment housing on buildings in designated areas, with a limit on size of up to 2.5 cubic metres volume?

If you disagree, please explain why.

Q.22 Should this be subject to prior notification/ prior approval requirements on the siting and appearance to mitigate visual impacts?

If you disagree, please explain why.

Other apparatus on buildings

4.33 'Other apparatus' is defined as any structure or apparatus which is ancillary or reasonably required for the construction, installation, alteration or replacement of digital communications infrastructure network. Examples of these include backup power generators, a maintenance ladder or fencing. These do not have specific PDR limits in the way equipment housing and antenna systems do.

4.34 For apparatus generally on a building, under Class 67(10) PDR applies provided the development:

  • does not exceed 10 metres in height;
  • would not protrude above the highest part of the building by 8 metres (if the building is more than 15 metres in height) or 6 metres (if the building is less than 15 metres in height); or
  • with alteration or replacement, where the resulting apparatus is not above these limits and is not above what was there already as regards height and protruding above the highest part of the building.

4.35 Additional conditions apply in designated areas. The alteration or replacement of apparatus is not permitted unless it is the same size or smaller, is in substantially the same location and does not increase the number of items of apparatus.

4.36 We propose extending the PDR that applies to other apparatus in designated areas. However, we recognise that this may require more controls than just the general ones on height that apply to such works outside designated areas.

Q.23 Do you agree that PDR for other apparatus should be extended in designated areas, beyond the basic 'like for like' alteration or replacement that currently applies?

If you disagree, please explain your answer.

Q.24 Should any new PDR for other apparatus in designated areas have specific limits and restrictions regarding size and visual intrusion?

Please explain your answer, and, if you agree, please indicate what sorts of limits and restrictions should apply and why. If you disagree, please explain why.

Q.25 Do you agree that PDR for new development of other apparatus on buildings in designated areas should be subject to prior notification/prior approval to mitigate visual impacts?

If you disagree, please explain why.

Underground equipment

4.37 Underground development typically refers to underground cables which support a digital telecommunications network. The two main types considered include power cables and telecommunications cables which are used for the purposes of broadband networks and mobile radio telecommunication networks. Changes in PDR that support the deployment of underground telecommunications are likely to have some long term positive effects on promoting economic growth by helping enhance digital connectivity in urban areas and supporting the rollout of 5G networks.

4.38 PDR for underground development is generally restricted in designated areas, though such development which is ancillary to certain works granted PDR in designated areas, e.g. regarding masts and telegraph poles, is also permitted development. We propose removing the general restriction on PDR for underground digital infrastructure in designated areas, but recognise that it may need to be retained in some such areas or be subject to certain safeguards.

Q.26 In which designated areas do you consider that PDR for underground development could be extended?

Please explain your answer, particularly with regard to those designated areas where PDR for underground development could not be extended.

Q.27 In those areas where PDR for underground development could be extended, what limitations, restrictions or requirements should apply (e.g. prior notification/ prior approval, a requirement for an archaeological assessment or specific limitations)?

Please explain your answer.

Access Tracks for Digital Telecommunications Infrastructure

4.39 The Sustainability Appraisal also considered possible changes to PDR for new access tracks associated with digital communications infrastructure. However, as a result of the re-prioritisation of the PDR work programme, a review of PDR for hilltracks has been temporarily postponed and will now take place in phase 3. As a result we do not consider that it would be appropriate to propose changes to access tracks for digital telecommunications at this time and will, instead, consider any changes in this regard alongside our broader consideration of PDR for tracks.

General Comments

Q.28 Do you have any further comments to make which are specifically related to the potential changes to PDR for Digital Communications Infrastructure which have not been addressed in the questions above?


Contact

Email: Planning.PDRphase1consultation2020@gov.scot