Health considerations and public concern can in principle be a material considerations in determining applications for planning permission and prior approval.
However, it is the Government's firm view that the planning system is not the place for determining health safeguards. It remains central Government's responsibility to decide what measures are necessary to protect public health. In the Government’s view, if a proposed mobile phone base station meets the ICNIRP (Internal Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) guidelines for public exposure it should not be necessary for a local planning authority, in processing an application for planning permission or prior approval, to consider further the health aspects and concerns about them.
The Government's acceptance of the precautionary approach recommended by the Stewart Groups report ‘mobile phones and health’ is limited to the specific recommendations in the Group's report and the Government's response to them. The report does not provide any basis for precautionary actions beyond those already proposed. In the Government's view, local planning authorities should not implement their own precautionary policies e.g. by way of imposing a ban or moratorium on new telecommunications development or insisting on minimum distances between new telecommunications development and existing development.
Further information on the Stewart Report is below:
The Government asked the National Radiological Protection Board to set up an Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones to consider concerns about health effects from the use of mobile phones, base stations and transmitters. The resulting report, The Stewart Report, was published in May 2000. In respect of base stations, the report concludes that "the balance of evidence indicates that there is no general risk to the health of people living near to base stations on the basis that exposures are expected to be small fractions of the guidelines. However, there can be indirect adverse effects on their well-being in some cases". They also say that the possibility of harm cannot be ruled out with confidence and that the gaps in knowledge are sufficient to justify a precautionary approach. The Government indicated that it accepted the precautionary approach advised by the group. The Governments acceptance of this precautionary approach is limited to the specific recommendations in the Groups report and the Governments response to them. These recommendations involved emissions from mobile phones base stations should meeting ICNIRP guidelines for public exposure. The Government shall continue to keep the whole area of mobile phone technologies under review in the light of further research.
The Stewart Report is available to view on the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones website.