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Fury as huge phone mast is erected without planning permission just a few feet from residents' homes
United Kingdom Created: 1 Dec 2020
Furious residents of two streets in Ashton are demanding answers from Bristol City Council after a massive mobile phone mast tower was put up close to their homes without any warning at all.

Engineers began preparing the ground behind the South Bristol Retail Park last Monday (November 23), and a large crane arrived in the middle of the week.

But it wasn’t until Friday (November 27) that the full height of the phone mast was revealed.

It towers over the back gardens of Smyth Road and Gerald Road in Ashton, with many saying their views have suddenly been ruined.

Now, attention has turned to the city council’s planning enforcement team, because the firm that erected the mast did not even submit a planning application, let alone get permission for the structure.

Many residents said they feared the company behind the structure are using new permitted development rights, although it is not yet clear if the Government have now given mobile phone companies the right to put up tall masts without asking for permission from council planners first.

The area’s two local councillors said they were urgently asking questions of the planners to find out what can be done about the mast, which is in the rear service yard of the B&M Bargains store in the retail park.

The mast is bolted to a concrete base, with concrete blocks positioned, but not touching it on either side.

It does not have any other anchors, nor does it have any signs indicating the owner or company responsible for the mast.

One local resident said she asked the workmen erecting the mast who they were and was told they were working for a company called Waldon Communications, erecting the mast on behalf of mobile phone giant EE.

Local residents and Bristol Live have contacted EE for more information.

People living next to the mast said they can’t fathom how it has been allowed to be erected without anyone informing them.

“A neighbour rang me to tell me there was a huge crane and next thing we knew, they were putting great big concrete slabs in and putting them between B&M and the Scout Hut, and there was nothing we could do,” said Ann Hathway, 83, who has lived in Gerald Road for 41 years.

“It’s diabolical. I didn’t realise it was going to be that high.

“It’s been lovely here. But now that’s there - but have they gone the right way about it, and got permission. We haven’t heard a thing about it,” she added.

The mast is right on the corner of the land used by the retail park, so on the inside corner of the back gardens of two streets.

Round the corner in Smyth Road, Hannah Reeve said she was stunned when she saw it at the end of her garden.

“We noticed the crane and things being lifted up the day before,and I was out all day, so I came in the garden yesterday.

"We’re due to have building work, and the builder said: ‘you know that there’, and I looked around and saw it.”

“The builder said ‘that’s devalued your house by 25 per cent’,” she added.

“We knew absolutely nothing. I’ve not been informed, not even any chat on Facebook, absolutely nothing at all.

“I’m worried about the health concerns about it - it is so close to all our houses.

"I wouldn’t do anything like this myself, but you hear that these masts are targeted by people, so that’s the last thing we want for it to topple onto our houses.

“But I’m more cheesed off with the way it’s been done. To not tell anyone at all that you’re putting such a tall thing at the end of so many people’s gardens is shocking,” she added.

“It’s been OK living here - obviously the football ground has grown in the last few years, but we’ve got used to that, but this is something else. Why didn’t they just put it on the stadium roof?” she added.

The streets concerned are just off Winterstoke Road, a couple of roads down from the South Stand of Ashton Gate.

It’s in Bedminster council ward, where local councillor Mark Bradshaw said he has had lots of people contacting him to ask what is going on.

“As councillors, we are normally sent details and plans about masts - relocated, renewed or brand new - for any comments in advance of installation, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case for this one,” he said.

“I can understand why people are annoyed and anxious, and we’re urgently asking Bristol City Council to clarify what is permitted within legislation and whether the processes have been adhered to,” he added.

His fellow Bedminster councillor Celia Phipps said she had many questions to ask the council and the mobile phone company.

“Why was this site chosen?” she said. “What were the options, and why don’t they need planning permission? I know the providers need height, as they have used the tower block in the past,” she added.

The question of whether EE - if it is their mast - didn’t need planning permission is the subject of controversy.

In July, the Government announced it would relax the laws on phone companies requiring planning permission to erect phone masts in a bid to speed up the process to get better phone coverage across the country.

That followed a year-long consultation, in which 80-90 per cent of those who responded said they were against 5G masts for health reasons.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Bristol Live, Tristan Cork, 30 Nov 2020

Bad vibrations - persuading the courts to recognise new illnesses
United Kingdom Created: 12 Nov 2020
Please meet James - He first started feeling unwell in 1988 when a transmitting mast five metres from his home - which previously had only an aerial at the top as a relay station - had additional capacity added to it that year.

He started to have headaches and migraines which abated within 30 minutes of leaving the house and vicinity of the mast. When several mobile systems were added to the mast, headaches and brain fog were accompanied by burning across his shoulders and back, and a pricking tingling sensation in his body - like being electrocuted.

His symptoms became worse, and his wife also suffered, when Tetra transmitters were added to the mast: stabbing pains in the shoulders, vertigo, blurred vision, pressure band around the head, headaches, cramping of hands, confusion and lack of concentration, disorientation, dizziness, dry cough, hot spots on the spine, to name just a few from a long list.

James had to take action to protect himself and his family - but he soon hit a block when he began challenging the mobile phone companies. Despite being diagnosed by his GP with a form of radiation sickness known as electro-hypersensitivity (EHS), this crippling condition is not recognised in law as a disability, which the mobile phone operators took as carte blanche to ignore his complaint.

This is a classic legal conundrum when new medical conditions emerge as our world changes. How do you go about getting a new (especially controversial) illness recognised in law and therefore protectable under discrimination laws?

This hypersensitivity to the electromagnetic radiation (EMR) given off by masts, antennae and other mobile communication systems affects humans to varying extents, much like an allergy - some people suffer badly and others less so. These kinds of symptoms are experienced severely by at least 800,000 people in the UK and less severely by at least two million people who are exposed to EMR.

Over many years, James wrote to every public authority representative he could think of in the UK and the EU, including the Prime Minister. No one listened and no one helped. Many had no understanding of his condition, not even considering it as "new" - scientists involved said there was no science to support his condition.

So, what can be done?

One route is to issue judicial review proceedings against relevant public authorities for breach of their public sector equality duty (PSED) under the Equality Act 2010. This is what Phillip Watts, a sufferer of EHS, did when he brought a judicial review against the secretaries of state for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

He argues that the contravened the PSED when they announced changes to planning permission requirements for the roll-out of 5G masts, antennae and equipment in July 2020. Under them, existing masts can be strengthened without prior approval.

Public authorities have a duty to eliminate differences between disabled persons (within the meaning of the Act) and non-disabled persons. In addition, when making strategic decisions such as deciding priorities and setting objectives, they must consider how their decisions might help to reduce the inequalities associated with socio-economic disadvantage which includes health inequalities.

Is James disabled under the Equality Act? Section 6(1) defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Schedule 1 extends that to impairments which are likely to last for at least 12 months or for the rest of the life of the relevant person. In the case of James, his condition is lifelong.

Government guidance helpfully provides that "the fact that an impairment may have a less substantial effect in certain environments does not necessarily prevent it having an overall substantial adverse effect on day-to-day activities".

It lists factors which are reasonable to regard as having a substantial adverse effect on normal day-to-day activities as including "difficulty entering or staying in environments that the person perceives as strange or frightening" this would seem to apply to James's home and his neighbourhood.

The PSED was summarised by Lord Boyd in the recent Scottish case of McHattie v South Ayrshire Council [2020] CSOH 4, identifying three important aspects:

- The duty must be fulfilled before the policy in question is enacted;

- The duty must be exercised in substance with "rigour and an open mind"; it is not a matter of "ticking boxes"; and

- The duty is continuing: it does not end with the completion of the EIA and due regard must be had as policy evolves and is implemented.

Lord Boyd noted that the duties under section 149 do not simply concern the prevention of discrimination but also the promotion of policies which help "eliminate differences between the protected group and those who do not share that protection".

He stated that, in particular, any scoping exercise should not be just a "tick-box exercise completed after the decision has been taken".

In Phillip Watts' case, it is ultimately up to the High Court to decide whether his symptoms amount to a disability under the Act and the PSED has been contravened. In relation to new kinds of symptoms, once medical evidence can be produced to confirm the impact of the symptoms, if the substance of the Act can be made out, individuals can be protected by it.

In James's case, it would seem that public authority representatives failed to consider how to eliminate differences between those suffering from EHS and those not. They have ignored him and marginalised the pain and suffering which he and many others experience every day.

The Watts case will shine a light on these practices and hopefully create a pathway to reverse the rejection of the pain and suffering of those who experience EHS.

James is a real case whose identity has been changed.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Litigation Futures, Jessica Learmond-Criqui, 12 Nov 2020

Landmark ruling made on rooftop phone masts in London
United Kingdom Created: 22 Oct 2020
A Tribunal ruling has set an annual payment of £5000 for a rooftop phone mast in London.

The case of CTIL v L&Q, where landowners L&Q were represented by law firm Clarke Willmott LLP will have major implications for future telecoms agreements for rooftop sites.

The Tribunal made it clear that operators should pay for temporarily shifting its equipment to allow landlords to carry out essential repairs. This, in turn, would put the onus squarely on the telecoms operator.

Clark Willmott Partner Kary Withers commented: “This is the first time that market evidence of new code deals has been considered by a Tribunal and that is why a figure of £5,000 p.a as opposed to £1,000 at a previous Tribunal case involving a property in Islington, has been arrived at.

“The Tribunal also concluded that unrestricted sharing is incompatible with ensuring the least possible loss to landowners.”

Martin Rodger QC commented during the trial that “the notion that landowners should pay for lift and shifts is ludicrous, [the parties] are out of their minds if they thought the landowner should pay”.

The Tribunal considered the use of a rooftop through common parts is likely to involve the landowner. They reviewed market evidence and decided that deals that were negotiated before the commencement of the new code and therefore could not be seen as reliable.

The consideration ordered included an allowance for building maintenance and insurance of £1500, an allowance of £1,000 for managing access, and an allowance for the anticipated costs for upgrading and sharing with two other operators.

The Tribunal considered that willing parties negotiating a 10-year arrangement would be more likely to agree to an annual payment rather than a one-off fee.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Mobile News, Saf Malik, 20 Oct 2020

Experts warn of 'mass violation of rights' as contact-tracing data collected in pubs sold on
United Kingdom Created: 15 Oct 2020
Experts have warned of a “mass violation of rights” after customer data collected by pubs and restaurants has reportedly been sold on to third parties.

Contact-tracing data required by the NHS Test and Trace scheme has been harvested by tech companies on behalf of hospitality venues since they reopened in June, according to The Times.

Although the government states that the information can only be kept for 21 days and must not be used “for any purposes other than for NHS Test and Trace”, some firms are reportedly selling it on.

A number of the data collection firms have reportedly created privacy policies which allow them to store users’ data for up to 25 years and share it with third parties.

The practise was described as a “real scandal” by experts shortly after it was revealed as they called on the government to crack down on the companies.

University of Oxford professor Carissa Veliz tweeted: “In case public trust regarding #privacy wasn't low enough...
Read more: Missing 16,000 coronavirus tests glitch 'caused by large Excel spreadsheet file'

“Scandals like these are the product of decades of allowing an unethical business model that depends on the mass violation of rights to thrive unfettered. Haven't we had enough? #PrivacyIsPower”

Lawyer and TedX speaker Dana Denis-Smith tweeted: “Why isn’t this a surprise how many people read T&Cs on apps esp as they rush to eat out?”

Blogger Jennifer Howze said: “This is a real scandal and we should not be forced into sharing our personal data by govt!”

Harriet Sergeant, a researcher at the Centre For Policy Studies, tweeted: “Pubs and restaurants sell on our contact-tracing data under so called ‘privacy policies’. And that’s just what we know about.”

While Gaurav Malhotra, director of software development company Level 5, told The Times: “If you’re suddenly getting loads of texts, your data has probably been sold on from track-and-trace systems.”

So-called “quick response” QR barcodes have reportedly allowed companies to gain access to names, addresses, telephone numbers and email details.

QR codes have been widely adopted by the hospitality, leisure and beauty industries as an alternative to pen-and-paper visitor logs.

Currently the government requires these venues to collect the names and contact details of customers to help with the NHS Test and Trace programme.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Yahoo! News UK, George Martin, 11 Oct 2020

Objections against 20m phone mast outside school
United Kingdom Created: 7 Oct 2020
Hutchinson 3G UK has applied to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council asking form permission to install the mast on a piece of land at the corner of Vyne Road and Queen Mary Avenue, in South View, outside The Vyne School.

The installation would include six antennas and two transmission dishes, along with four equipment cabinets.

The application states: “This location has been identified as being integral to the needs of H3G’s network in this area”.

However, residents have objected to the plans, saying the location is not suitable. The height of the mast would be at least double that of an average two storey house.

Pauline Hughes, from Darlington Road, said: “It would stand well in excess of the surrounding streetlights and residential properties which are substantially less than 20m in height. Something of this height should be located in an industrial/employment area.”

She also pointed out that the mast might obscure the view for drivers using the junction.

Alison Jones, from Burgess Road, raised concerns about the safety of the mast, saying: “I already suffer from severe tinnitus and there is circumstantial evidence that transmission poles such as these make tinnitus worse.”

Mr Lampard, from Darlington Road, said in his objection: “I would rather live without 5G than with this proposal.”

He added: “Could the proposal be in a more obtrusive location? Placed on the exposed corner of Queen Mary Avenue it will instantly become the most striking landmark within the ‘conservation’ area.”
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Basingstoke Gazette, Emily Roberts, 06 Oct 2020

Dudden Hill neighbours successfully campaign against 5G mobile masts in their area
United Kingdom Created: 2 Oct 2020
Hutchinston 3G proposed an 18 metre 5G mast with a wrap around and three cabinets on Cullingworth Road.

Neighbours appealed against the poles citing a loss of footpath space, the height of the mast and security concerns for the property next door as the cabinets would facilitate jumping over the residential back wall.

Last month Brent Council rejected the application.

5G - billed as the “next generation” of mobile coverage - operates at a much higher frequency than its predecessors, and continues to be rolled out in cities across the UK.

Jackie Morrell, of Fleetwood Road, said: “It was a great relief to learn that the council had taken in all our many concerns about the proposed installation and has refused approval.

“It is a very difficult time for all of us now coping with the pandemic and this extra stress has been awful for us and our neighbours throughout the area. We are not against the technology but it must benefit everyone and not infringe upon anyone’s quality of life.”

Lead petitioner Kishan Patel, added: “Once we were made aware of the proposed plans on August 18, we took it upon ourselves to inform and engage the local community, including the church, school, and residents of Fleetwood House.

“The overwhelming response was opposition to the proposed location of the mast, along with questions as to why other, more suitable locations were not firstly considered.

“Whilst I do understand and appreciate that technological advancements may necessitate the mast, this proposed location was clearly unsatisfactory. We are pleased with the council’s decision and this represents a great victory for the local community.”

Cllr Anton Georgiou: “I supported the petition along with my grandmother as we worried about the impact the mast would have. I am pleased the council have refused this application. It is essential that wherever masts like this are installed, thorough assessments of their impact are conducted. Really great that people power won the day!”
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Brent & Kilburn Times, Nathalie Raffray, 01 Oct 2020

Government faces legal challenge over 5G phone masts 'safety fears'
United Kingdom Created: 1 Oct 2020
The government’s rollout of the 5G mobile network is facing a High Court legal challenge amid safety fears around the new generation of phone masts.

Ministers announced in July it was relaxing planning permission requirements for the extension and upgrade of phone masts around the country, to accelerate the implementation of the 5G network.

Today, a judicial review was launched into that decision, challenging the consultation carried out, accusing civil servants of withholding key scientific data from ministers before the decision was made, and claiming that safety fears around 5G masts have not be allayed.

Among the parties to the legal challenge is Phillip Watts, a retired engineer and trustee of the EM Radiation Research Trust, who says his health has suffered from living close to a phone mast.

“While there is so much concern around health issues associated with 5G infrastructure, it cannot be right to give mobile phone companies carte blanche to invade our cities, towns, communities and residential streets with controversial technology," he said.

Another of the claimants is Brian Stein CBE, the former chief executive of food manufacturing firm Samworth Brothers Ltd who has also campaigned about the effects of mobile phone technology.

“The jury is clearly still out on the long-term impacts of exposure to mobile phone radiation”, he said. “Given the lack of consensus even amongst the scientific community, it is just not right that the government has recently decided to remove barriers for the mobile phone companies to roll out this controversial new technology, rather than making sure more time for consideration is built in to every stage.

“I myself have suffered health issues which I am convinced are a direct result of living close to a mobile phone mast, so I am personally very disappointed – as well as concerned for others - in the government’s stance.”

The legal claim was lodged today by law firm Learmond Criqui Sokel, with top barrister David Wolfe QC due to lead the court challenge.

It is claimed the Housing, Communities and Local Government and Digital, Culture, Media and Sport departments did not conduct a proper consultation on the decision to relax planning permission requirements on 5G masts.

Campaigners say at least 400,000 masts are due to be installed as the 5G network is expanded, and they claim pre-claim correspondence with the government shows an “entire body of detailed, cross-referenced and evidenced scientific material” on radiation and possible health impact of masts was kept from ministers.

“When questions about risk to public health have been raised, it is simply not right for civil servants to take it upon themselves to withhold vital scientific and other evidence”, said lawyer Jessica Learmond-Criqui.

Campaigners want the court to declare the government’s decision-making process as unlawful and order a fresh consultation.

The government said it would not comment on the case at this stage.

In July, announcing the end of the government's consultation, minister for Digital Infrastructure Matt Warman told the House of Commons: "We are satisfied that the proposed reforms are necessary to support the Government’s ambitions for the deployment of 5G and extending mobile coverage, particularly in rural areas, where mobile coverage tends to lag behind more urban areas.

"In taking forward these proposals, we will ensure that the appropriate environmental protections and other safeguards are in place to mitigate the impact of new mobile infrastructure."
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Evening Standard, Tristan Kirk, 01 Oct 2020

Vodafone court defeat could open floodgate of legal rent-challenges from mast hosting landowners
United Kingdom Created: 30 Aug 2020
Mobile phone giant Vodafone has suffered a defeat in court that could open the door to a wave of legal challenges by landowners that host 5G phone masts.

Operators such as Vodafone pay landowners billions of pounds in rents every year at thousands of sites – but hoped to reduce these under the Electronic Communications Code, which was introduced in 2017.

It was designed to speed up the roll-out of 5G by cutting costs for operators hoping to install the infrastructure quickly and cheaply.

Vodafone alone spent £3.5billion in rents last year across its entire estate and tried to use the law in an early test case.

It wanted to cut its rent bill for a site owned by a Monaco-based property tycoon but lost in the County Court in Manchester.

Judge Martin Rodger QC ruled that Vodafone should pay rent to the landowner, Hanover Capital, based on the value to the operator as opposed to the value of the land itself, which would be much cheaper.

The judge said he came to his decision because four operators use the phone mast in a car park on an industrial estate outside Stockport. Vodafone estimates that only around 10 per cent of its 18,000 UK sites are shared with other operators. Although Vodafone was only hoping to slash a few thousand pounds off this particular bill, it had spent more than £300,000 fighting the case because of the significance for rents at its other phone masts across the country.

Hanover is an Isle of Man-based company owned by Mark Harrison, a property entrepreneur originally from Manchester but now based in Monaco. He also owns property investment firm Praxis. Lawyers for Harrison said the terms Vodafone was offering were 'unfair' and he decided to fight them. They said other landowners would now have a good comparison to help them negotiate a better deal.

It means thousands more landowners could now fight the company on rents.

The defeat for Vodafone comes amid calls for reforms to prevent these rows in order to speed up the installation of 5G infrastructure across the country – which is expected to provide a major economic boost. Critics of the Electronic Communications Code argue there are loopholes that mean it is not fit for purpose.

Operators joined forces last month to establish the Speed Up Britain campaign, which is chaired by the former Digital Minister Ed Vaizey. It is calling for the code to be reformed and argues the UK will fall behind in the race to cash in on the benefits of 5G.

Vaizey told The Mail on Sunday: 'This is another example of the Government's plan to give Britain the best possible mobile networks being held back by grey areas in the law. The changes we're proposing to the Electronic Communications Code can address this and help move us forward at a time when connectivity has never been more important.'

Victoria Dobson from law firm EMW said the outcome was bad for Vodafone and other operators because more landowners will now challenge them on rents.

She said: 'Growing friction between landowners and operators is definitely hindering progress on the roll-out of 5G technology.'

It is unclear whether Vodafone will appeal the outcome.

Vodafone declined to comment on the case.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Financial Mail On Sunday, Jamie Nimmo, 29 Aug 2020

Inspector throws out plans for 5G phone mast in Brighton
United Kingdom Created: 14 Aug 2020
A proposal to put up a 20-metre tall 5G phone mast has been turned down by a planning inspector.

Two mobile phone companies, Three and EE, wanted to replace a 12-metre tall mast with a 5G pole almost twice as high on the corner of Roedean Road and Marine Drive in Brighton.

They also wanted to install nine cabinets to house supporting equipment.

Brighton and Hove City Council refused the phone companies’ planning application in August last year because of its impact on the area.

The council said: “The proposal replacement monopole, by reason of its increased height and bulk, would have a significant harmful visual impact on the surrounding area and the setting of the nearby Grade II listed buildings and the South Downs National Park.

“In addition, the proposed cabinets would have a cluttered appearance that would detract from the open character of the area.”

The mobile phone companies’ agent Beacon Comms said the taller pole would have a “limited impact” on Roedean School and the national park.

But planning inspector John Woolcock backed the council’s decision.

He said: “It was apparent from my site visit that a key characteristic of the locality that contains the appeal site is its openness.

“The open space on both sides of this part of Roedean Road is an important part of the transition from the urban area into the downland landscape of the nearby South Downs National Park.

“The proposed monopole and cabinets would be considerably more prominent than the existing

telecommunications infrastructure.

“The proposal would sit uncomfortably in this context and would significantly erode the sense of

openness that prevails in this area.”

Residents sent 26 letters opposing the original plans which were turned down by officials under delegated authority.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: The Argus, Sarah Booker-Lewis, 13 Aug 2020

UK Govt.: New law changes to bring better connectivity to the UK
United Kingdom Created: 6 Aug 2020
The government has today set out new law changes it will make to boost gigabit broadband rollout and bring better mobile coverage to the whole of the UK.

The move is part of the plan to give the UK the telecoms infrastructure it needs to meet the growing demands of consumers and businesses and to take advantage of future technologies that will be vital for the economy.

The telecoms regulator Ofcom will be granted new powers so it can share with the government information from broadband companies about where they plan to build gigabit-capable broadband networks, and to publish data about areas where gigabit broadband rollout is not currently planned.

These powers will help encourage the commercial rollout of gigabit broadband in locations where it is not yet earmarked. The government will also be able to take into account this information when deciding where it will spend £5 billion of funding to give the public access to the fastest broadband, capable of one gigabit per second download speeds.

This funding has been pledged to make sure hard-to-reach areas receive these much faster internet connections at the same time as towns and cities.

Separately, the government has confirmed it will push ahead with its plans to reform planning laws to make it easier for industry to share and upgrade mobile phone masts. This will speed up the rollout of 5G and improve 4G coverage in rural areas.
Matt Warman, Minister for Digital Infrastructure, said:

We’re investing billions so no part of the UK is left behind by the opportunities and economic benefits that faster, more reliable and more secure digital connectivity brings.

These changes will help target public funding in hard to reach areas most in need of better broadband. It will also help mobile companies banish rural not-spots by upgrading and sharing their masts.

European Electronic Communications Code

The government has today set out how it will bring the European Electronic Communications Code into UK law. The UK played a leading role in the negotiations for the Code, which updates the telecoms regulatory framework for the EU. A number of its provisions are influenced and inspired by existing UK objectives and best practice.

While the Code largely consists of minor changes to the existing legal framework, the government will bring in some new pro-investment measures from the Code that are in the UK’s national interest and support its plans for nationwide gigabit broadband. Other measures will give people and businesses greater consumer protection and ensure Ofcom’s regulatory powers are up to date.
They include, but are not limited to:

Network forecasting - New powers for Ofcom to gather information on operators’ planned network rollout. Ofcom will share this information with the government to allow better targeting of public investment in poorly-connected areas. It will also publish non-confidential data about where rollout is not planned to help inform industry investment.

A focus on gigabit-capable networks - A new broad duty for Ofcom to promote connectivity, access to, and take-up of gigabit-capable networks to help the UK realise its full digital potential.

Promoting cooperation and competition in hard to reach places - In areas where it is costly or difficult to install new networks, such as urban blocks of flats and rural locations, Ofcom will have the power to impose obligations on operators already present to offer network access or to share equipment such as mobile masts with other operators.

Pro-investment regulation - Ofcom’s market review period will be increased from three to five years which will give a longer period of regulatory stability to the telecoms market and more certainty for investors in gigabit broadband.

Easier switching for consumers - Currently, when switching broadband providers, consumers need to liaise with their old and their new provider and juggle the relevant old service end dates and the start dates for new services. Under these changes, they will be able to contact their new provider, who will lead and co-ordinate the switching process so it is as smooth as possible and with minimal loss of service.

Better regulation of bundles - Consumers on bundled contracts, which include mobile and broadband but also other services such as video and music streaming, will be able switch providers more easily. This means they will avoid being locked into bundled contracts if, for example, providers make changes to their contracts, or something goes wrong with just one service in the bundle.

Mobile infrastructure planning reforms

In another response to a public consultation published today, the government has announced it is taking forward proposals to simplify planning rules to speed up 5G rollout and improve rural mobile coverage.

Reforming planning laws in England will allow mobile network providers to put more equipment than they currently can on phone masts, making it easier to share masts and increase mobile coverage areas. This will help maximise the use of existing mast sites and minimise the need to build more infrastructure.

The reforms will allow:

New masts to be built taller, subject to prior approval by the planning authority, to deliver better coverage and allow more mobile operators to place equipment on them

Existing phone masts to be strengthened without prior approval, so that they can be upgraded for 5G and shared between mobile operators

Building-based masts to be placed nearer to highways to support better mobile coverage of the UK’s road networks, subject to prior approval

Cabinets containing radio equipment to be deployed alongside masts, without prior approval, to support new 5G networks

Before amending the existing legislation, the government will carry out a technical consultation on the detail of the proposals, including the appropriate environmental protections and other safeguards, and the specific limits to be put on the widths and heights of phone masts.

The government also expects the mobile phone industry to commit to further measures and assurances to ensure that the impact of new mobile deployment is minimised.
Housing Minister Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP said:

Delivering much-needed new homes is at the heart of this Government’s mission to support people in every part of the country, and this means delivering the modern infrastructure needed to go with them.

We’re taking forward plans to extend mobile coverage, particularly for those in rural areas, so everyone can benefit from the latest technology and the jobs, opportunities and growth that comes with this.

These reforms will aid the delivery of the £1 billion deal the government made in March with the mobile network operators to build a Shared Rural Network which will mean poor mobile coverage becomes a thing of the past. It has seen the four main mobile operators undertake legally binding commitments to collectively increase mobile phone coverage throughout the UK to 95% by the end of 2025, by investing in a network of new and existing phone masts that they would all share.
Notes to Editors:
European Electronic Communications Code:

The European Electronic Communications Code Directive revises the EU telecoms regulatory framework, which has underpinned UK telecoms law since 2003. The UK played a leading role in the negotiations for the Directive, which largely reflects UK best practice. Its core objectives are to: drive investment in very high capacity networks and services through sustainable competition; support efficient and effective use of radio spectrum; maintain the security of networks and services; and provide a high level of consumer protection.

The UK’s approach to implementation of the Directive is in line with the UK’s commitments under the EU Withdrawal Agreement to transpose EU legislation before the end of the transition period and to provide flexibility for future domestic policy. It meets the minimum requirements of the Directive, and minimises additional costs to businesses.

The public consultation on the Code, published in July 2019, sought views on its implementation, focusing on provisions affording flexibility at the national level, including those supporting accelerated commercial roll-out of gigabit-capable and 5G networks.

Provisions where we have departed from the preferred approach outlined in the consultation represent areas where the UK legal regime is already flexible enough to cater for the specific EECC provision or a degree of discretion exists in the Directive to allow the UK (along with other EU member states) to take account of market conditions and characteristics existing in national markets.

Some articles are either already addressed by existing UK legislation, or are being transposed by Ofcom through their existing powers in the case of consumer measures, or by other Departments, such as a provision on car radio interoperability that is being transposed through Department for Transport’s Road Vehicles (Approval) Regulation legislation.

In recognition of the limited time between publication and the date when these measures will come into force and the impact of COVID-19, working with Ofcom, the government has sought to ensure that measures that directly bite upon industry including consumer protection measures will only be enforced at the appropriate time. The government is supportive of Ofcom’s statement, published on its website on 7 May, outlining that industry will be given at least 12 months to implement proposed changes to their regulatory rules allowing industry flexibility it needs during this challenging period.

Mobile infrastructure planning reforms for England:

The consultation ran for 10 weeks, from 27 August 2019, closing on 4 November 2019. Planning law is a devolved matter. These proposals and any future legislative changes apply to England only. The technical consultation will seek views on the detail of the proposals, including the appropriate environmental protections and other safeguards to mitigate the impact of new mobile infrastructure.

In developing the technical consultation, we will also work with industry and local planning authority representatives, and other government Departments and relevant regulators, including Ofcom, to strengthen the Code of Best Practice on Mobile Network Development in England

Electronic Communications Code - intention to consult on possible reforms:

The Electronic Communications Code, which is separate from the European Electronic Communications Code, is the domestic legal framework underpinning agreements between landowners and communications operators in the UK. The Code was substantially reformed in 2017 to make it cheaper and easier for electronic communications apparatus to be deployed, maintained, shared and upgraded. Now, more than ever, it is important that operators are able to do this at pace. Therefore the government intends to consult in due course on changes to the Code that may be needed to achieve this.

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Source: Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, 22 Jul 2020

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