THE RULES covering mobile phone masts could be relaxed as part of a Government plan to improve productivity in rural areas.
Making it easier to convert farm buildings into houses and creating enterprise zones around market towns are among the other measures Rural Affairs Secretary Liz Truss will set out in her ten-point rural productivity plan.
The proposals have yet to be fleshed out in full but there were hints in George Osborne’s report on driving up UK productivity in the wider UK economy published today.
The rural plan will include the Conservatives’ election pledge to deliver superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the UK by 2015 and will give countryside communities the right to allocate land for ‘starter homes’.
Through a mechanism known as “permitted development” mobile phone operators can already build masts of up to 15 metres high with councils having very limited rights to intervene.
The rules could be further relaxed to allow larger masts to fall under permitted development.
Matt Thomson, head of planning at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “While we agree that it is essential to improve mobile phone coverage in rural areas, care needs to be taken to avoid any unnecessary harm to the character of the countryside.
“If permitted development rights for mobile phone masts are to be increased, there should be exemptions for protected areas. Operators should only be able to use these rights where they have exhausted the possibilities of mast sharing, roaming and using other existing structures.”