Local planning policy 'should prioritise digital infrastructure to enable 5G roll-out'

The roll-out of digital infrastructure should be considered as a 'priority' in local planning policies to help improve mobile connectivity, according to the government's infrastructure advisory body.

Telecoms infrastructure: report says that 5G roll-out could require potentially tens of thousands of new ‘small cell’ radio antennae
Telecoms infrastructure: report says that 5G roll-out could require potentially tens of thousands of new ‘small cell’ radio antennae

In a new report on preparing for the emergence of 5G mobile technology, the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) says that government "must now play an active role to ensure that basic services are available wherever we live, work and travel".

Roads, railways and city centres "must be made 5G ready as quickly as possible", according to the report.

Delivering future mobile services "will require dense networks of potentially tens of thousands of new ‘small cell’ radio antennae in our towns and cities", it says.

There "will be a significant challenge both in finding suitable sites and infrastructure to support these cells, and ensuring that telecoms networks meet local needs".

One of the report’s recommendations is that local government "should actively facilitate the deployment of mobile telecoms infrastructure".

As part of this, authorities should work with local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) to develop "coordinated local mobile connectivity delivery plans", the report says.

Such plans should "consider how the deployment of digital infrastructure can be established as a priority in local planning policy".

In addition, councils and LEPs should "consider the role of local government assets and infrastructure", such as land, buildings and roads, and "help coordinate the role that other public buildings in an area can play to facilitate the deployment of mobile telecoms infrastructure".

Alongside the plans, there should be pilot schemes trialling local models for facilitating the roll-out of these networks. The report says that any pilot programme should "seek to establish how high quality design can minimise the impact of hosted infrastructure on the built environment". 

The report says that recent planning changes and an amendment to the Electronic Communications Code "have gone a long way to removing existing planning barriers".

But mobile network operators should still "bring together their network expertise with that of local authorities, who best understand their area and can provide an accurate picture of local area requirements".

The NIC report Connected Future can be found here.


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