Exclude telegraph poles from permitted development legislation

We want the Government to remove permitted development rights for telegraph poles, so telecommunications operators have to apply for permission to the Local Planning Authority (LPA) on any proposed installation and the LPA has to consult with affected residents before issuing permissions.

This petition closed on 11 Apr 2024 with 10,453 signatures


Reticulating Splines

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Telegraph poles erected by operators for the expansion of FTTP broadband do not need planning permission under the Electronic Communications Code (Conditions & Restrictions) 2003 & The Town & Country Planning (General Permitted Development (England) Order 2015.

There is no requirement to consider alternatives (like underground cabling) or to inform residents of the installation, so no opportunity for them to engage. The first knowledge residents have of a pole installation is when it appears on their street.


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Government Response

Friday 19th April 2024

The Government wants the planning system to support the infrastructure needed for nationwide gigabit-capable broadband coverage by 2030 and is seeking to ensure these rights are used appropriately.


The Government is committed to ensuring that everyone across the UK has access to gigabit-capable broadband as soon as possible. We have already made huge progress on this ambition. In January 2019, only 6% of premises could access gigabit-capable broadband, but due to the Government’s programme and the work of operators, this has now increased to 81%. This progress means that hundreds of thousands more people across the country are getting access to the quality connectivity that can transform access to key services and economic and social opportunities. Our ultimate target is nationwide gigabit-capable broadband coverage by 2030, and for this, it is important to ensure that people across the country can get the connectivity they need at pace, while striking the right balance of engagement with local communities.

All development requires planning permission. However, the Government can, in effect, grant planning permission across England for specific types of development under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (as amended), without the need for a separate planning application to be made.

The Government is aware of concerns that have been raised about the deployment of telegraph poles through permitted development. Understanding the strength of feeling from local communities on this matter helps the Government to ensure these concerns are considered when pursuing connectivity goals.

Whilst we appreciate the strength of feeling of communities, the majority of concerns appear limited to specific operators or a result of the unique characteristics of an area, such as the specific market conditions in Hull. We therefore want to make sure any changes we make to the current system are proportionate and do not undermine the wider rollout of gigabit-capable broadband, which has been so fundamental in getting people the improved connectivity they need.

While the Government considers that permitted development rights for telecommunications infrastructure should continue to ensure planning supports this mission, it is keen to ensure that these rights are being used appropriately.

The Electronic Communications Code (Conditions and Restrictions) Regulations 2003 require operators to notify the local planning authority at least 28 days in advance of their intention to deploy certain infrastructure under permitted development rights, including telegraph poles. The local planning authority can then suggest conditions in relation to the installation of apparatus. The operator is obliged to comply with these conditions to the extent those conditions are reasonable.

Officials at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities are working together to provide further guidance to local planning authorities on the current regulations, particularly how and when local planning authorities can refer suspected breaches to Ofcom under the 2003 Regulations. This will empower local planning authorities to manage situations where they believe operators have acted improperly.

Ofcom can investigate any cases where poles are sited in a way which is not consistent with the requirements and guidelines in place – such as the relevant regulations and codes of practice. This includes where they block residents’ drives or where operators systematically fail to engage with local planning authorities’ suggestions. Residents can raise such concerns with their local planning authority for them to take the matter to Ofcom.

The Minister wrote to all fixed line operators on 14 March 2024, setting out the Government’s concerns and emphasising the importance of infrastructure sharing. The Minister asked them to do everything possible to share existing telegraph poles before installing new ones. The Minister has hosted a roundtable for operators to discuss these concerns, and to understand their views and seek commitments to better working practices.

To further ensure appropriate use of permitted development rights, the Government wants to see the Cabinet and Pole Sighting Code of Practice to be revised to promote better working practices. While this work needs to primarily be driven by industry with input from local planning and highway and road authorities, Ministers will be seeking reassurances from industry and will be following this work.

By working with local planning authorities and operators, we can tackle the challenges faced by residents while ensuring fast, reliable and affordable connectivity is available to all.

Department for Science, Innovation and Technology


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