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Resident wins judicial review challenge over decision on siting of radio masts

A London borough wrongly interpreted the General Permitted Development Order on the siting of radio masts, the High Court has said.

Granting an application for judicial review brought by local resident Nigel Mawbey, Lang J said the London Borough of Lewisham had been wrong when it gave permission to Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure to erect the masts.

Mr Mawbey sought judicial review of Lewisham’s decision that the installation of mobile telephone apparatus on the roof of Forsythia House, which is owned by Lewisham Homes, was permitted development under Part 16 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development)(England) Order 2015.

He objected to the installation due to lack of consultation and that the masts were unsightly in a conservation area and posed a radiation health risk.

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The judge said the dispute was over “whether or not the antennae are supported by a mast”.

Lewisham argued that the central support poles for this installation were pole mounts, different in character to a mast and therefore the installation fell outside the relevant exclusions in the order.

Mr Mawbey said that since the central support poles were supporting antennae which were transmitting and receiving radio waves, they were radio masts.

in Mawbey, R (On the Application Of) v Lewisham Council [2018] EWHC 263 (Admin) the judge said Lewisham and Cornerstone submitted that the meaning of ‘radio mast’ or ‘radio tower’ in the GPDO was “a tall, self-supporting structure that supports antennas at a height where they can satisfactorily send and receive radio waves and is capable of providing 360 degrees coverage from a single position”.

She said: “In my judgment, ascribing such a specific meaning to the definition of ‘mast' would amount to an impermissible re-writing of the GPDO by the court. The definition in the GPDO makes no mention of these criteria.

The Secretary of State submitted that the definition of ‘mast’ in the GPDO was “not defined more specifically to ensure that it covers structures that fulfil the function of supporting antennae to transmit and receive radio waves”.

The judge said Lewisham and Cornerstone “have not been able to identify any reason why that balance of competing interests should not be given effect in building-based developments using pole mounts.

“I have come to the conclusion that the claimant's interpretation, as supported by the Secretary of State, is correct. In summary, each central support pole comes within the definition of ‘electronic communications apparatus”.

Lewisham had reached an irrational decision by concluding that the support poles were not masts because they were not ground-based, and the scale and design of the support poles was not characteristic of a roof mast.           

Mark Smulian

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