WA grants major planning exemptions for mobile phone towers

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WA grants major planning exemptions for mobile phone towers

State planning policy overhaul comes ahead of NBN rollout.

The West Australian government has granted significant new planning exemptions for telecommunications equipment ahead of the rollout of the NBN’s multi-technology mix network.

The new rules cover communications structures visible above ground level, including NBN fixed wireless transmitters, mobile phone towers, enterprise-owned radio equipment or microwave links, and amateur radio equipment.

Known as state planning policy 5.2, the regulations have been welcomed by mobile phone carriers. They override local planning laws, and prevent local councils from banning telecommunications equipment as an acceptable land use in any zone.

Local councils will also no longer be able to prevent a project going ahead over concerns about electromagnetic emissions (EME), and won't be able to force operators to include setbacks or buffers around their equipment.

The regulations include various criteria new proposals will need to meet, including that equipment should be located in an existing duct, building or tower where possible, and use colours and finishes that minimise visual and environmental impact.

Any proposal that meets the criteria and is less than 30 metres in height will be exempted from needing local government approval, although operators will still be required to give the local community sufficient notice.

The regulations apply to projects that haven't already been granted an exemption from state and local laws by the federal government.

The changes have been welcomed by the telco industry.

“Local councils’ policies can raise inappropriate provisions to do with the deployment of mobile telecommunications infrastructure, in particular the imposition of exclusion (or buffer) zones,” AMTA Mobile Carriers Forum manager Ray McKenzie said.

“The precedence of SPP 5.2 will greatly improve the industry’s ability to undertake deployments according to uniform planning requirements across the state.

“The SPP rightly notes that setting standards to protect the Australian public is a Commonwealth government responsibility and is outside the authority of local councils.”

The federal government is currently battling with community opposition to its plan to increase the thickness of NBN cables on power poles to 48mm without requiring local or state planning approval.

The proposed exemptions have drawn criticism from local councils and community groups, as well as power companies.

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