Government vows to protect national parks in broadband rollout  header image

The government has vowed not to damage national parks and areas of natural beauty in the rollout of super-fast broadband.

Speaking in the House of Lords, the minister for communities and local government, Baroness Hanham, said proposals that could have seen telegraph poles and broadband infrastructure constructed in areas of outstanding natural beauty will be amended.

She claimed that environmental sustainability is a central part of the coalition's strategy and local councils will be able to outline particular positioning requirements in their Broadband Delivery UK contracts.

Ms Hanham commented: "The government remains convinced that the natural environment and landscape are of crucial importance, which is why there will be a number of important safeguards.

"The voluntary code on siting best practice for operators and planning authorities will have input from the national parks as the English National Park Authorities Association is involved in the working group that will draft the code."

She also stated that communications providers will be under a "statutory duty" to consult local planning authorities when developing their projects.

In response to the news, Lord Adonis said he expected the government and BT to hold fast to these commitments and consult with representatives from national parks so the rollout of super-fast internet is carried out in "the most sensitive way possible that conserves and enhances their natural beauty".

Earlier this year, the former secretary of state for the environment, Lord Deben, expressed concerns about the impact of broadband improvements on the natural environment.

Speaking to Planning Magazine, he said that new broadband networks could open the way for "ugly boxes and masts in the most beautiful countryside without any planning procedure".

While Baroness Hanham's comments may go someway to allaying this fear, another option is satellite broadband.

Satellite-based services only require the installation of a small dish and modem, which means there is no need for the construction of unsightly masts or the time consuming and disruptive laying of cables. 

Posted by Mark Wynn