It is in Bermuda’s national interest to have a modern, sophisticated telecommunications network which utilises up to-date technology. In recent years, advances in technology have resulted in an increase in demand for new telecommunications equipment. Whilst the Government is keen to promote the development of the telecommunications sector, it must also take account of its responsibilities for safeguarding the health and safety of its citizens and protecting the environment.
Planning permission and/or a building permit may be required to construct, erect or replace any telecommunications equipment or supporting structures.
Typically, planning permission is not required where, in the opinion of the Department of Planning, the installation would pose no material visual impact. This may include the addition of apparatus to an existing tower where the height of the tower would not be exceeded, an installation on a part of an existing building which would not appear highly prominent from adjacent roads or neighbouring properties relative to the existing patterns of surrounding development or installations of limited size on existing street furniture such as street lights.
In all cases, confirmation should be sought from the Department of Planning as to whether a planning or building permit application is required prior to the commencement of any works.
Health concerns can be a material consideration in determining applications for planning permission, however the planning system is not the appropriate forum for determining health safeguards in respect of telecommunications development. Therefore, the Department of Planning will not consider potential health impacts from individual proposals provided that:
Under the terms of the relevant licences and governing documents, licensed telecommunications operators have consent from the RA to operate using either:
The RA’s role is to promote sustainable competition in the telecommunications sector as well as to promote fair business practices, protect consumer and industry stakeholders and encourage innovation and integrity in these markets. Further information can be found on the RA’s website, www.ra.bm.
If a telecommunications development requires planning permission, the planning application will be assessed having regard principally to the visual impact of the proposal. Such an assessment is made in respect of the design and scale of the structure, the context of the site and the number of visually prominent telecommunications installations within a local area.
In terms of design and scale, the structures that have the greatest impact are latticework towers, which tend to be much more visually prominent than other structures and can be seen over a wide area. Poles and antennas are of a smaller scale and, as such, their impact is generally limited to the local context, however their visual impacts must still be assessed.
The proliferation of telecommunications equipment in a local area has the potential to cause a significant visual impact. The sharing of existing support structures (co-locating) is viewed as the most appropriate and preferred way to limit the number of telecommunications structures around the island. If co-locating is not possible, it is preferential for equipment to be located on an existing building rather than be freestanding in order to minimise visual impact and, in all cases, the installation of equipment in visually prominent locations should be avoided unless required for operational reasons.
Locating telecommunications equipment in the roof space of existing buildings, or disguising telecommunications equipment, are appropriate alternative methods of ameliorating visual impact.
Other factors may also be considered as part of the assessment of a planning application for telecommunications development, such as impacts on highway safety, aircraft navigation or heritage assets such as listed buildings or historic areas.
In addition to the usual requirements as set out in the , all planning applications proposing a new or replacement telecommunications tower or freestanding pole will be required to include the following:
In addition, applications that propose the installation of telecommunications equipment on an existing structure that is not a support tower (i.e. on the roof top of a building) will require written reasons setting out why utilising an existing support tower in the vicinity is not possible, including the details set out by the first point above.
Prior to submitting a planning application, applicants must submit the proposed plan to the RA for review and approval per the RA’s Radiofrequency and 5G Safety General Determination and evidence that the RA has received this submission must be included with the planning application. It is also strongly recommended that pre-consultation advice be sought from the Bermuda Airport Authority, Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority and Skyport in respect of aerodrome safeguarding. Advice should also be sought from the Department of Health as well as the Highways Section and/or Historic Buildings Advisory Committee, where relevant, ensuring that all responses are included in the planning application.