Representing the biggest changes in planning regulations since the 1984 Telecommunications Act, the Conservatives would ensure all masts require full planning permission, that health concerns are taken into account, and visual intrusion is reduced.
Launching a new Conservative campaign, You decide where they go, shadow local government minister Caroline Spelman said:
'The erection of poorly-located masts is causing considerable disquiet in many parts of the country. There is a presumption in favour of development inherent in the current planning system, which overrides local, environmental and safety concerns.'
Under the new five point plan:
1. All mobile phone mast developments would require full planning permission, so that local councillors are clearly accountable and answerable for where masts are located.
2. There would be a single process for deciding all masts, including those on Network Rail or church property, Tetra masts, as well as small antennas being covertly installed in street furniture or signs.
3. Councils would be allowed to take health concerns into account such as near homes, hospitals and schools. Current national planning guidance prohibits this.
4. Mast operators would be required to demonstrate that any development does not result in unacceptable damage to visual amenity or harm environmentally sensitive features.
5. Councils would be asked to draw up their own supplementary planning guidance to ensure consistency and clarity for operators and residents, and ensure a plan-led approach to future development.
Mrs Spelman added:
'Conservatives will champion the interests of local residents and address the feelings of powerlessness and frustration experienced living under the threat of badly sited masts. Local councillors, answerable to local residents via the ballot box, should have the final say on where they go.
'During the Birmingham Hodge Hill election, Labour pledged in their leaflets that they would 'do everything we can to ensure that there are no more phone masts near schools and hospitals'. Yet the Labour government have failed to support private members bills in parliament or change planning laws to back up those pledges. Ahead of the general election, we will ensure that Labour will pay for their dishonesty - at the ballot box.'
(1) '3G' masts are those required to support new '3rd generation' mobile phone technology such as video-calling. 'Tetra' masts are part of a new police secure communications system, but have attracted particular controversy because of concerns about the impact of their electro-magnetic radiation on human health.
(2) The policy document launched today is available here.
(3) A high resolution (300 dpi) poster is available at: