Masts and planning

07 February 2018

Wireless Telegraphy Act licences issued by Ofcom authorise the use of radio spectrum anywhere within the area licensed. For mobile phone networks, this is nationally within the UK. While the WT Act licences set the technical conditions for how such apparatus must be constructed and operated, Ofcom has no involvement in the planning process for physical structures such as masts, buildings etc that may host radio equipment, which is a matter for local planning authorities.

Site acquisition / access / lease arrangements between landlords and network operators are commercial matters and enquiries should be directed to the relevant operator(s).

Planning procedures vary across the UK regions and are subject to various National and Devolved Administration laws. Ofcom does not have statutory responsibilities for Planning but has compiled the following guidance on these issues.

Planning Policy

Ofcom has no role in the enforcement of planning law or the siting of telecommunications masts. The responsibility for planning policy falls to the DLUHC - Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. In particular, Section 10 (Communications) of the National Planning Policy Framework (2021) outlines the planning criteria for communications infrastructure for England. There is also a Code of best practice on mobile network development in England.

National governments have developed their own planning policies:

Scotland:

Wales:

Northern Ireland:

Communications operators may apply to Ofcom for an authorisation of the Electronic Communications Code to facilitate planning applications but, other than granting this (subject to consultation) and keeping a list of authorised companies, Ofcom takes no part in the planning process itself.

Planned or proposed sites

Individual planning authorities administer the planning laws locally and issue permission to build through the normal planning process. Views or questions about planning applications for any specific site should be addressed to the relevant local planning authority. Find addresses for local councils.

Industry information on masts and planning issues

The trade association MobileUK is a central contact point for enquiries to the industry. Among its publications is an industry code of practice on mobile network development which includes operator contact points for mast enquiries.