Digital telecommunications: planning guidance

Guidance explaining the supporting key role the land use planning system has in the delivery and enhancement of digital telecommunications infrastructure across Scotland. It explains the roles and processes involved, provides good practice and a summary of the technical and operational features.

This document is part of a collection

1 Introduction

The context of the land use planning system

1.1 The land use planning system plays an important role in the delivery and enhancement of world class digital and telecommunications infrastructure across the whole of Scotland. This document explains the land use planning process, the specific roles and functions involved and the technical and operational features of the related infrastructure. It also provides good practice guidance on the siting and design principles of such equipment.

1.2 The document will be of interest to local authorities, telecommunications industry operators and their consultants, local communities, the general public and many other organisations and bodies. Working collaboratively is vital to successful delivery in the provision and consenting of such infrastructure.

1.3 This document is not planning policy but should be read in conjunction with the National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) and the Local development planning guidance and it may be a material consideration in planning application and appeal decisions (Section 2 refers).

1.4 This publication replaces Planning Advice Note 62: Radio Telecommunications.

The context of modern digital connectivity

1.5 Modern telecommunications and digital connectivity has a central role in unlocking the potential of our places across all of Scotland. It is a fundamentally important utility which allows people to be connected for business and social purposes at work, home or remotely, with greater demands on fixed and wireless communications. It enables people to have immediate access to emergency services, healthcare, education, shopping, leisure etc. It supports living locally and helps to sustain and grow rural and island communities. Lack of coverage in some locations can disadvantage businesses, communities and individuals, both economically and socially, and can contribute to deprivation, social isolation and lack of wellbeing. Scotland competes within globally competitive markets, where productivity is vital, which has to be supported by a communications infrastructure that allow automation, innovation and efficiencies.

1.6 The planning system can assist in addressing the gaps in connectivity and barriers to digital access by supporting the delivery of new digital services and technological improvements, particularly in areas with no or low connectivity capacity. These factors are critical to NPF4 aspirations which seek to:

  • tackle climate change and protect local environments from its damaging impacts by reducing the need to travel and to contribute to a net zero society.
  • unlock opportunities for businesses, employment and remote working.
  • support investment and population growth in rural areas.
  • create better places by influencing the pattern and location of development and ensure connectivity is where it is needed.
  • build ‘smart’ communities to facilitate more sustainable ways of living.

1.7 The Scottish Government's 2021 Digital Strategy a changing nation : How Scotland Will Thrive in a Digital World (2021) sets out ambition for high quality connectivity across all of Scotland. This

includes closing the gaps in mobile provision and facilitating the grown investment in and deployment of 5G networks, as set out in the Scottish Government’s 2019 5G Strategy.

1.8 Through the Reaching 100% (R100) programme, the Scottish Government is committed to ensure that 100% of premises in Scotland have access to superfast broadband. This complements the UK Wireless Infrastructure Strategy which sets targets for mobile connectivity across the UK.

1.9 At the time of writing, despite significant progress large parts of rural Scotland still have little or no mobile connectivity. These are often challenging areas in which to deploy mobile infrastructure because of areas of natural and cultural significance, topography and the economics of developing installations that might only serve small populations and low numbers of passing customers. To address the digital divide that has emerged in these areas, the Scottish Government, the UK Government and the Mobile Network Operators (MNO) are working together to transform mobile coverage countrywide in the Scottish 4G Infill (S4GI) and Shared Rural Network (SRN) programmes. To gain maximum coverage, it is likely that some of the SRN infrastructure will be tall, but that should reduce the overall number of sites that may otherwise be required in some sensitive landscapes.



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