Telecommunications and mobile phone masts

Not all telecoms development requires a planning application. The government has given licensed telecoms operators permitted development rights to carry out certain types of telecoms development without planning permission. Some types of development require prior approval where the Planning Authority can comment on design and siting but cannot challenge the principle of development. For more minor development the councils are given 14 days to comment, but the operators do not have to take these comments on board.

Despite sometimes not needing planning permission, all telecommunication development must be built in accordance with International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines - for more details see:

Mobile phone masts generally fall into two categories:

  • those which require 'full planning permission'
  • and those which require 'prior approval'

Prior approval

Where a mast fits into one of the following categories, a mobile phone operator will submit a notification for 'prior approval':

  • the alteration or replacement of a mast which would be no taller than the existing
  • the alteration or replacement of a mast up to and including 20m in height above ground level
  • radio equipment housing with a volume of 2.5 cubic metres
  • the installation of new masts up to a height of 25 metres when not in either a conservation area or the South Downs National Park

The councils then have 56 days to let them know whether we permit or refuse the approval. We can consider the appropriateness of the siting and appearance of the installation but cannot object to the principle of the development (as the legislation accepts that such masts are permitted development).

Full planning permission

Larger scale masts that are likely to have a greater impact require an application for planning permission. These include, for example, those that do not match the criteria for prior approval, any masts located in sensitive areas such as conservation areas or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). There are also separate requirements for listed building consent and scheduled ancient monument consent. Applications for masts that require planning permission are dealt with under the normal planning procedures.

National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

The NPPF sets out relevant planning guidance on all new development and can be viewed following the link below:

Other websites

Health: A wide range of information about health matters relating to telecommunications and mobile phone equipment can be found on the GOV.UK and Mobile UK websites:

Mobile UK: is the trade association for the UK's mobile network operators: Three, O2, Vodafone, and EE:

Providers: Further Information can be found on the websites for individual mobile phone companies:


Ofcom is the regulator for the communication services. Their website offers information about where mobile network operators make available information on the location and operating characteristics of individual base stations, so that people who wish to inform themselves about this can do so.

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Page last updated: 05 December 2023

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