A number of communications companies are installing wooden poles, masts and cabinets to improve the borough of Rochdale's digital infrastructure.
The government has passed legislation that means developing telecommunications apparatus doesn't require planning permission or a highway licence. The government has already granted permission in advance.
Our involvement as Local Planning Authority and Local Highway Authority is very limited.
Installation of telegraph poles
Telegraph poles are:
- Typically made from wood.
- Typically 8-10 metres in height.
- Supporting a fixed broadband cable above the highway that doesn't transmit or receive radio signals.
- Essentially the same as the common telegraph poles that carry telephone wires.
Attaching broadband cables to telegraph poles means that companies can provide internet without having to dig up roads, driveways or front gardens.
As they're typically less than 15 metres and don't broadcast signals themselves, they're 'permitted development' and can be installed within the highway without needing any form of consent from us.
Telecommunications companies are required to give us 28 days notice of their intention to install a pole but there are no real grounds for objection. They're also required to advertise their intentions within the vicinity of the site, usually by a site notice.
A highway licence is not required, simply a permit for the method of installation. We would only intervene if the pole was causing an obstruction which shouldn't be the case if the operators follow national guidance on their installation. We have no power to seek their removal based on visual impact.
Installation of communications masts
The form of development known as a 'monopole' is actually a mast, not a pole. It has that name because of its slimline design, but it doesn't support a cable over the highway. Without these structures, the mobile phone network couldn't operate.
Communications masts are:
- Typically made from metal.
- Typically 15 or 20 metres high, though they can be higher.
- Supporting radio antennae which broadcast and receive mobile phone signals. They can also be used to provide mobile broadband.
- Often placed within the footway, though they can also be on private land.
They require 'prior approval' from us. We can't consider the principle of the mast (this has already been granted by the government) but we can consider its position and design. A decision needs to be made within 56 days or default permission is granted. For masts above 30 metres, full planning permission is required.
Should prior approval or planning permission be granted, telecommunications companies have the right to install masts if they're within the footway and only need to gain a highway permit for the method of installation, not the principle.
Telecommunications companies are expected to comply with an adopted Code of Practice in terms of road safety and visibility. They must ensure that an acceptable amount of pavement remains available for all highway users.
Installation of cabinets
Cabinets are typically metal boxes placed on the footway. They can be connected to a larger structure such as a mast or a pole, or they could be free-standing.
They don't require planning permission because of their limited size.
Cabinets are covered by Class A of Part 16 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015 and are usually permitted development.
Signs erected on wooden telegraph poles
It's our legal view that signs erected on wooden telegraph poles do not constitute an advertisement and therefore do not require our consent.