Welsh government announces planning changes to boost mobile phone coverage

The Welsh government has announced it will make changes to its national planning policy document and consider amending permitted development rights to boost the country's mobile phone service.

Welsh government
Welsh government

The Mobile Action Plan, which sets out how the government will work with the mobile phone industry and the regulator to improve connectivity, was published yesterday.

The document says that planning has a "key part to play in maximising mobile phone coverage across Wales".

In the plan, the Welsh Government promises to "refresh" Planning Policy Wales to "ensure that it highlights the positive relationship between telcommunications and the economy" and the role of local authorities in "positively planning for telecommunications in their development plans". A revised version of Planning Policy Wales will be published for consultation by Spring 2018, the plan says.

The government has also commissioned research, due to be completed this autumn, to "inform changes to permitted development rights for telecommunications equipment to improve mobile connectivity". According to the plan, the mobile industry has "made it clear that changes to permitted development rights including to the size of mobile masts, antenna size and emergency access to infrastructure sites will make the process of deploying new mobile infrastructure and upgrading existing infrastructure quicker and easier".

Mobile network operators will work with the government, the plan further pledges, to "revise and, if appropriate, consolidate Technical Advice Note 19 (TAN 19), which outlines the planning procedures that councils should follow when assessing telecommunications proposals, as well as the Mobile Phone Network Development code of best practice.

The plan goes on to say that the introduction of the National Development Framework "represents an opportunity to ensure that digital infrastructure is at the heart of planning in Wales".

The document states: "It is important that the planning regime is fit for Wales and reflects its topography and population distribution. It needs to balance the local economic and societal benefits of having broad mobile signal coverage (and capacity) with the need to safeguard our sensitive landscape areas and protect residential amenity."

Minister for skills and science Julie James said the mobile phone service in Wales "needs to be better", adding: "Wales’ topography presents many challenges and we need to ensure we strike the right balance between the local economic benefits of improved mobile coverage with the need to safeguard our sensitive landscape."

She said she intended the first review of the plan "to take place at the turn of the year".

The plan can be viewed here

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