Now Mobile Phone Companies want a Free Ride in Conservation Areas: Telegraph


Bosses at Vodafone, O₂, EE and Three met Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, to push for a shake-up of rules in the protected areas, including many parks, town squares and village greens. The companies want the rules relaxed so they can meet government targets for the introduction of super-fast 4G coverage.

The companies want urban conservation areas put on an equal footing with ordinary parts of towns or cities, so that the public only has 56 days to raise objections to masts up to 15 metres tall. The 56 days would start from the point at which a council announced the plans, for example by putting up notices.

Mobile operators are already allowed to erect masts in conservation areas, but there is no fixed time-frame for public consultation, and planning applications often take around a year. Often, they are only allowed to proceed if the mobile operators agree to conceal the masts, for example in flagpoles, lampposts or chimneys. The angel statue on top of Guildford cathedral in Surrey has mobile antenna hidden under its skirt.

The “Big Four” operators say the bureaucracy makes it hard for them to improve their networks fast enough to cope with the surging popularity of smartphones and the demand for internet access on the move. They told Miss Miller that they would not be able to meet the target of super-fast 4G mobile services reaching 98 per cent of the population unless planning laws are changed.

“They are basically holding the Government to ransom,” a senior source told The Daily Telegraph.

Even so, Miss Miller is considering relaxing the planning laws. A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: “Government has been clear that we will work with mobile operators, local government and other interested parties to consider ways that the planning process might be streamlined to speed up the deployment of mobile infrastructure. We are currently considering a number of proposals.”

The changes “would give both communities and networks greater certainty about improving coverage and bringing in new services,” said a spokesman for the Mobile Operators Association, a trade body. “The network operators have a long track record of constructive engagement with local councils and communities and will continue to develop their networks responsibly within the planning system.”

Olaf Swantee, the chief executive of the biggest mobile operator, EE — formerly T-Mobile and Orange — which is due to launch Britain’s first 4G services next week, said planning laws needed to be relaxed to allow companies to make changes to their existing masts.

The mobile operators are not calling for changes to the rules on conservation areas that are protected because of their historic status or outstanding natural beauty.

Public Inquiry as pub turning over £27k a week proposed as £20 million home


The Phene was built in 1850 by Victorian philanthropist Samuel Phene, who wanted a place for servants and local tenants to drink. In 2002, Bourne and his wife Sally Greene, owner of the Old Vic theatre, swooped in and bought it for just over £2 million through their pension trust. They then spent a further £1.1 million refurbishing the interior, turning it from a run-down drinker’s den frequented by George Best into a shiny new gastropub featured in Tatler — you can’t move for the cast of Made in Chelsea in the beer garden — creating  the £27,000-a-week turnover an independent consultant estimates it generates.

But last year the Bournes applied to Kensington and Chelsea council to turn the pub into a luxury private home — which once completed would be worth £20 million, say local estate agents — and in September ownership was transferred into a Jersey-based offshore company called Blue Lagoon Holdings for an undisclosed sum.

More than 1,000 people signed a petition against his plans and the council turned down his application, but this week Bourne began a landmark appeal against that decision.

Campaigners, councillors and developers are watching the appeal closely as they believe the outcome will either draw a line in the sand for “pub-to-home” transformations — or open the floodgates, especially as a succession of further hearings in the borough are scheduled for the coming weeks.

It’s not Robert Bourne’s first foray into the courts. Last month, Kensington and Chelsea council dismissed his appeal against its original refusal to let him turn another Chelsea pub he owns — the 300-year-old Cross Keys in Lawrence Street — into a residence. More than 4,000 people signed a petition against its closure but their victory is not complete. The pub remains closed, with Bourne claiming it is economically unviable.

This time, Bourne has upped the ante. Instead of merely appealing against the council’s decision, he asked for a public inquiry, a move considered highly unusual and incredibly expensive. He has spent a fortune on retaining a barrister for four days — the hearing ends tonight — with a decision expected within six to eight weeks.

In an opening statement to the inquiry, Timothy Comyn, the barrister representing Bourne, dismissed the protesters’ claims that the pub still had strong ties to the community. He argued that the interior had changed beyond all recognition from the Victorian local it once was.  Comyn said the Phene is now a “gastropub-cum-restaurant that serves no recognisable local community function” and that “the nature of the Phene Arms has changed irrevocably … [it is] an establishment frequented by the Hooray Henrys of today”.

I hope mr Bourne, given the NPPF, gets totally screwed for costs.

So Which Local Authorities are Vulnerable to Special Measures?

Looking at the latstest live table for April to May I claculated those LPAs

With 18 Week Majors less than 50%

With minors at less than 50% and

With others less than 60%.

I guess the DCLG is likely to adopt a threshold for all three to stop LPAs swtiching all resources to minor cases as they did with they old 8 week target.

This leaves a surprising list

North Norfolk (which has an adopted CS)

Barnet (adopted CS)

Chichester (no adopted CS)

Southampton (adopted core strategy)

Vale of White Horse (no adopted core strategy)

Mendip (no adopted core strategy)

I dont have the appeal refusal rates per authority, but this is a poor measure as on a quarterly basis for small rural authorities the variation from tiny sample sizes is huge, and it would be statistically meaningless to adopt a longer and different timescale from the decision taking stats. This would create an obvious avenue for legal challenge.   The fact that they even mentioned this as a factor leads me again to doubt the quality of civil servants now left at the DCLG if they make such a basic statistical mistake.

So if this quarter were the operative numbers who might be top of the list for muscular localism?

This left a surprising list Chichester, Vale of White Horse, Mendip.  Lots of AONB, lots and lots of AONB.  I wonder if the Telegraph journalists are listening.