Wales

Mobile mast size rules relaxed for better coverage across Wales

A mobile phone with 5G on the screen Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption 5G promises much faster data download but needs taller mobile phone masts

Planning rules about the size of mobile phone masts are being relaxed to improve coverage in Wales.

Masts of up to 25m will no longer need to go through the full planning permission process from April.

This has been in place in England and Scotland since 2016, leading to claims that the Welsh Government was dragging its feet.

The process for approving electric vehicle charging points is also set to be accelerated by planning changes.

The changes, under what are known as permitted development rights, replace the existing limit of 15m and bring Wales in line with the rest of Britain.

Because they can carry more equipment and send the signal further, it is hoped bigger masts will benefit places with limited or no mobile coverage.

Telecoms companies have been calling for the changes, which were recommended by a government-commissioned report in 2017.

Image copyright CERIDWEN/GEOGRAPH
Image caption A phone mast serving the Gwaun Valley in Pembrokeshire - a county which struggles for good coverage

The assembly's economy committee said last month that Wales risked falling behind when the next generation of mobile phone technology, such as 5G, arrives.

Committee chairman Russell George said he was "pleased that the Welsh Government has finally proposed this change after many years of refusing this request".

"It is critical that Wales is not left behind in this new era and there are still parts of Wales with no connection at all," he said.

"That simply isn't good enough and it is crucial that these not-spots are covered, particularly in remote, rural areas."

Avoiding the need for full planning permission could save companies £2,250 and cut eight weeks off the process, the Welsh Government said.

Deputy Economy Minister Lee Waters said: "The purpose of changing permitted development rights to allow taller masts is to enable the further roll-out of mobile coverage across Wales, particularly in those areas with limited or no coverage currently.

"We must remember that the main levers to improve mobile coverage lie with the industry, Ofcom and UK Government.

"They are not devolved but we are taking action in the areas we are responsible for."

The new permitted development rights for electric car charging points include potential locations at the kerbside, at homes and supermarkets.

It is meant to help create a "Wales-wide network of charging infrastructure", according to the Welsh Government.

Building work to install broadband and put solar panels on roofs will also be made easier under the changes.

More on this story