The Court of Appeal 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”.
Upholding the decision of the High Court (Lang J), the Court of Appeal (Lindblom, King and Holroyde LJJ) has found that the term “radio mast” should be broadly interpreted as including any pole which supports antennae which transmit and receive radio waves.
The appeal 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 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. Lang J found that this decision was unlawful, as matters of scale and design were irrelevant to the question of whether a “mast” had been installed.
Before the Court of Appeal, the Appellant argued, in summary, that the interpretation of the word “mast” adopted by Lang J was too broad, and failed to reflect a distinction between “masts” and other “support structures” in Class A of Part 16.
The First Respondent argued, as in the High Court, that applying the ordinary meaning of the word, the pole mounts were “masts”; that there was nothing in the legislative context to displace the ordinary meaning; and that because (correctly interpreted) the building fell within para A.1(2)(c), the development was unlawful.
Giving the leading judgment, Lindblom LJ set out the correct approach to interpreting the provisions of the GPDO: accepting the First Respondent’s submission that one must begin with a straightforward interpretation of the words used, giving them their natural and ordinary meaning, and then consider whether there is anything in that legislative context to displace that meaning.
Applying the ordinary meaning of the word “mast”; and considering the legislative structure of Part 16 together with the purpose of the restriction in para. A.1(2)(c), it was concluded that the First Respondent’s interpretation of the word “mast” (accepted by Lang J) should be adopted, and that factors such as height and scale could not be implied into the definition given in the GPDO. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
Andrew Parkinson appeared for the First Respondent, instructed by Richard Buxton Environmental and Public Law.