Mobile phone masts of up to 25 metres, installed using modified planning permission requirements will lead to better mobile coverage, but only at the rate that service providers erect these new facilities.
CLA Cymru Director, Rebecca Williams says, “The gap in standards between mobile coverage in parts of Wales and parts of England ought to narrow, thanks to the change in Permitted Development Rights approved by the Senedd last week. This brings Wales in-line with England and Scotland. Here both countries have had this standard and a similar planning process since 2016.”
Rebecca Williams adds, “The CLA’s #4GforAll has long campaigned for better mobile coverage for landowners, farmers and rural businesses across England and Wales. The recent Westminster All Party Parliamentary Group for Rural Business’ report showed how large areas of rural Wales: Gwynedd, Powys and Conwy, are among the top ten worst local authority areas for coverage in the UK. The CLA is urging Ofcom to force mobile network operators to improve coverage in rural areas by imposing a legally-binding 95% 4G geographical coverage target.”
“Last year a CLA report, based on FOI data, showed that in England and Wales mobile phone operators are failing to submit planning applications for masts. It remains to be seen if – or how – this latest development will change this.”
“The step taken in the Senedd must be followed by a concerted effort to make good use of these arrangements. We should expect to see an increase in installations where providers have waited to be able to install taller units for greater efficiency. The onus lies with them to get on with the job.”
Rebecca Williams continues, “In time the older, shorter masts will need to be replaced and a plan needs to be seen for their replacement into the network of greater range.”
“Meanwhile, in Westminster a consultation process is making proposals which could strengthen the hand of the regulator, Ofcom, in compelling the mobile phone service providers to offer rural roaming.” Rebecca Williams says, “We welcome this consultation and we will be urging the UK Government to fully consider the impact its decisions will have on rural businesses. We know that mobile operators are not investing sufficiently in rural areas which means it is vital that the Government puts in place an effective strategic framework that will inform Ofcom’s decision making and make 4G a reality for all."
“The countryside should not be the mobile coverage boondocks,” Rebecca Williams concludes. “Everybody expects high quality mobile coverage everywhere. There is still more work to do. Landowners who accommodate masts to deliver this vital service still face difficult negotiations with mobile companies to achieve fair compensation for providing sites.”