Could Norfolk be set for more and taller mobile phone masts?

Taller mobile phone masts could be allowed if the government relaxes current planning restrictions.

Taller mobile phone masts could be allowed if the government relaxes current planning restrictions. Picture: Antony Kelly - Credit: Evening News © 2007

Towering mobile phone masts could be on the horizon as government ministers look set to relax planning restrictions over them.

However, the announcement could also see opportunity knock for Norfolk to become a pioneering county in the roll-out of 5G mobile networks.

Digital secretary Nicky Morgan this week announced a pot of cash to fund research into the technology, which can be secured by councils and other organisations across the nation.

And with the scheme solely geared at rural areas, it could be an opportunity for Norfolk to put itself at the forefront of digital innovation.

However, the digital secretary also said planning restrictions that currently mean masts can be no more than 25 metres tall on public land could be relaxed.

This means that any local authority bidding for the funding may also have to accept the possibility of bigger, taller and more numerous masts in its area - but it remains to be seen whether Norfolk County Council will bid or not.

A spokesman at County Hall said: "We are currently in discussion with various potential partners from the local public sector, academia and the private sector and are considering whether it is beneficial for Norfolk to bid."

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Michael Rayner, planning campaigns consultant for the Campaign for Protection of Rural England in Norfolk (CPRE) said any bid for the cash should be approached with caution.

He said: "In principle, we do support greater connectivity for rural areas - we all want to see rural towns and villages thrive and this is an important part of that.

"However, the proposal to make masts taller and more numerous by relaxing planning control would be a concern.

"There definitely needs to be a balance between improving signal and making sure they do not damage our countryside - so there would need to be a nuanced approach."

A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said bids were expected to be made jointly by organisations from both the public and private sector, but led by local authorities.

Last year, a bid from the West Midlands was successful in securing a similar fund geared at urban areas.