December 10, 2020
Welsh National Infrastructure Commission rightly urges a refocus on mobile connectivity
The publication of the National Infrastructure Commission Wales’ report to the Welsh Government makes some clear and stark recommendations on what is needed to attract investment in digital infrastructure into Wales.
Following on from the industry’s own calls for permitted development rights reform the Commission’s recommendations call on the Welsh Government to seriously consider planning rules that are more favourable to mobile infrastructure more so than other nations of the UK. In addition, the document highlights that planning guidance has not been updated since 2002, suggesting that Wales has been slow to reform its planning regime which has had an adverse impact on the cost and length of time taken to deploy new infrastructure.
A summary of the key recommendations made by the National Infrastrcuture Commission related to mobile infrastructure and coverage:
- The planning regime for telecommunication in Wales should be brought into line with that currently being proposed for England (and likely to be replicated in Scotland) as a matter of urgency.
- This should be accompanied by the wholesale revision of the TAN19 guidance to local authorities, as well as revisions to the Code of Practice on Mobile Phone Network Development, both of which are now over 15 years old.
- The Commission recommends that the barrier-busting taskforce be asked to assist Mobile UK and/or mobile operators in their discussions with Highways Authorities and Network Rail with a view to resolving issues.
- The Welsh Government should replace the existing all Wales Digital Infrastructure Group with a new ‘barrier busting’ taskforce, led by a senior official, with clear objectives and deadlines in which to achieve them. The taskforce should lead the development and implementation of new guidance that is issued by the Welsh Government, including (but not limited to) that relating to the use of public assets and levy of fees for them, the implementation of a new planning regime for telecommunications (TAN19), liaison with Network Rail, Transport for Wales, the North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agent, the South Wales Trunk Road agent, and liaison with the equivalent taskforce in the UK Government.
- The Welsh Government to [consider] providing additional public funding, above and beyond that in the existing SRN agreement, in order to further extend mobile coverage in some parts of Wales. Such funds could be reallocated from the share of the £5 billion Gigabit funding programme which the Welsh Government expects to obtain from the UK Government (and could represent a significant proportion of that allocation)
- The Commission recommend that the Welsh Government engage directly with the Home Office to determine whether and the extent to which delays in the delivery of ESN affect coverage in Wales and to satisfy itself that they will be resolved or to identify actions which the Welsh Government can take to assist.
Commenting on the recommendations made by the National Infrastructure Commission Gareth Elliott, Head of Policy and Communications atMobile UK, said:
“The Commission’s call to urgently review planning guidance and permitted development rights is welcome at a time when the industry is investing heavily in network upgrades, 5G and the Shared Rural Network. As other nations within the UK advance reform of their planning systems to take advantage of world-class mobile connectivity, it is important that Wales keeps pace too.”
A link to the full report by the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales can be read here.
About Building Mobile Britain
Building Mobile Britain is a campaign created by Mobile UK seeking to work with national and local government, as well as interested industry groups to overcome the challenges we face with expanding the existing mobile networks, while also developing innovative services for customers.
See here for further information - or #BuildingMobileBritain
Head of Policy and Communications
Tel: 07887 911 076