A phone mast is set to be built in Stevenage - despite Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) refusing planning permission.

Planning officers refused prior approval for the mast to be built at the Glebe, but it can now go ahead after the applicant failed to receive the required legal notice during the allotted time period.

Cllr Simon Speller, executive member for environment and performance, blamed Royal Mail for the debacle.

The council received the application from CK Hutchinson Networks on July 11, and issued a decision notice on August 29 - within the given eight week period.

However, the posted notice did not reach the applicant until after that period, despite SBC allowing a week for it to be delivered via first-class mail.

As a result, the application qualifies for 'deemed consent' and can go ahead.

Phone masts are classed as permitted developments, making it more difficult for planning authorities to prevent them going ahead.

However, officers had refused prior approval for the 15m-high mast on the grounds that it would obstruct pedestrians.

The mast, which would provide 3G, 4G and 5G coverage, was set to be built in the middle of the footpath next to 1 The Glebe.

But an agreement has now been reached to ensure that the mast will instead be situated closer to the building, reducing the obstruction to pedestrians.

Cllr Tom Wren, who represents Chells ward, was unhappy with the location that was originally proposed and asked council planning officers whether it may still be possible for adjustments to be made to it.

The applicant then submitted revised plans to SBC on October 1, and they were agreed on the following day.

Cllr Wren said: "It’s ridiculous that the developer didn’t propose a more suitable location in the first place, and I’m glad that they’ve agreed to a compromise solution."

The saga was raised ahead of an SBC council meeting on Wednesday, October 18.

Cllr Robin Parker asked whether SBC will be introducing any new procedures to ensure that the same issue does not arise with other planning applications.

In his written response, Cllr Speller stated: "This was particularly disappointing for the council as we had allowed seven days for first-class postal delivery.


"Whilst our allowance of time for posting and processing have been increased to try and address this, the central government approach to 'approval by default' for telecoms masts places the council and local community at a disadvantage.

"This topic is a matter of concern which has been subject of discussion and focus by the Planning and Development Committee along with being raised directly with the Secretary of State."

At the meeting itself, Cllr Stephen Booth asked "exactly what new procedures will be or have been introduced" to ensure the situation doesn't repeat itself with any other planning applications.

Cllr Speller responded: "It's embarrassing anyway, that the postal delay led to a change, effectively, to what the planning committee wanted to say."

He confirmed that "the allowance for time has been increased", though he added that "it perhaps needs something a bit deeper".