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High Court considers meaning of the word “mast” under the GPDO; quashes irrational decision by local planning authority

DATE: 19 Feb 2018

The High Court has considered the meaning of the word “mast” as used in Part 16 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (“GPDO”). 

In the GPDO, the term “mast” is defined as “a radio mast or tower”. 

Lang J agreed with the Claimant that the term “radio mast" should be broadly interpreted as including any pole which supports antennae which transmit and receive radio waves.

The challenge arose in the context of the installation of a number of “pole mounts”, used to support antennae, which had been installed on a building in Lewisham by Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Limited (“CTIL”), a joint venture between Vodafone and Telefonica. 

The pole mounts had been installed without planning permission, in reliance on the general grant of planning permission for telecommunications apparatus under the GPDO. 

Under para. A.1 of Part 16, telecommunications apparatus is not permitted development if it includes the installation of a “mast" on a building of less than 15 metres in height within 20 metres of the highway: see para. A.1(2)(c).

The local planning authority, Lewisham Council, concluded that the pole mounts were not masts, based on their scale and design, and therefore the development was permitted development. 

The Claimant argued that the pole mounts were “masts” and because the building fell within para A.1(2)(c), in the absence of a separate grant of planning permission, the development was unlawful.

Lang J considered the ordinary meaning of the word “mast”, the legislative structure of Part 16, and the purpose of the restriction in para. A.1(2)(c). It was concluded that the Claimant’s broad interpretation of the word “mast” should be adopted, and that factors such as height, scale and design could not be implied into the definition given in the GPDO.

Accordingly, as the pole mounts here did support the antennae to transmit and receive radio waves, they were masts and the decision of the Defendant was irrational. 

The judgment is important, as paragraph A.1 of Class A sets out a number of limitations relating to the installation of “masts”. If these limitations apply, the installation of telecommunications apparatus is not permitted development. 

It is understood that a number of antennas supported by similar “pole mounts” have been installed by telecommunications companies on similar buildings across the country, on the basis that they are permitted development. Following this judgment, this development was not in fact permitted development and instead required a separate grant of planning permission. 

Please click here for the judgment. 

Andrew Parkinson appeared for the successful Claimant, instructed by Richard Buxton Environmental and Public Law. 

Heather Sargent appeared for CTIL, instructed by DAC Beachcroft LLP.