Telecommunication base stations

A1/023 - Issue date - Under review

With the increasing use of mobile telephones, telecommunication operators are occasionally seeking to install telecommunication base stations on Oxfordshire County Council Sites. Establishments are generally keen to allow such installations due to the attractive annual revenue that can be generated.

Radio signals that pass between the base station antennae and mobile telephones are in the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum and therefore base stations are sources of microwave radiation. There have been many articles in the press over the possible dangers associated with such base stations and where installed on school sites, several phone calls from concerned parents.

Telecommunication base stations are either mounted on free standing masts or attached to the top of county buildings. The council's non-ionising radiation advisor, Willis Safety Solutions Limited has advised that in such locations the base stations do not represent a risk to normal building users as the risks associated with such installations are only significant to those in the near vicinity (normally within 3m around the antennae). However where the base stations are fixed to buildings there may be a possible risk for contractors who have to work in close proximity to the antennae when carrying out building repairs or maintenance. This is not a problem where the base stations are mounted on free standing masts as it is only the telecommunication company's operatives who are likely to be at risk and this is not the responsibility of the county council.

All requests for the installation of telecommunication base stations on county council sites must, in the first instance, be referred to Property and Facilities (until further evidence or advice is available no new base stations will be allowed on school sites or on other county council sites, other than fire stations, within 200m from the boundary of schools). If the proposed site is considered acceptable Property and Facilities senior landlord and tenant officer will commission the service provider (SP) to enter into initial discussions with the telecommunication operator and the client directorate to determine that:

  • The type of installation and location proposed and the revenue likely to be generated are satisfactory;
  • The proposed installation is within the recommended guideline limits set by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP);
  • Where the proposed installation is on a fire station within 200m of a school boundary the following will also apply:
    • The operator to provide details of the installation including the proposed radiated power levels. These details to be submitted to the council's expert for comment and whether they consider the proposals to be acceptable. Where such a consultation takes place the local member to be informed.
  • If the proposals are considered acceptable, and once the equipment is installed and in use, the installation to be monitored at the operators expense. Should it be found that the installation does not operate within the permitted guidelines the lease to be determined and the equipment removed.
  • The Head of Establishment is fully aware of the likely risks associated with such installations and of the possible management procedures that may have to be introduced if the installation is fixed to a building;
  • The telecommunication operators are prepared to cover all costs that will be incurred by the county council in agreeing a lease;
  • The client directorate is happy with the proposed installation.

When the above points have been addressed, the consultant will enter into detailed negotiations leading to a lease agreement with the telecommunications operator.

If all the points raised above are answered satisfactorily the SP is to provide details of the proposed installation (accompanied by full details of type, size, location, fixing details and method statement to cover installation) and carry out the following checks and actions:

1. Property care

  • That the propallation procedures take into account all health and safety issues;
  • No persons will need to come within close proximity of the antennae during the normal operation/maintenance of the site. Adequate warning notices and, where necessary, barriers are included within the proposals. Where the antennae are to be fixed to a building ensure that adequate warning signs are attached to the relevant elevations of the building to prevent the unplanned use of ladders or scaffolding;
  • The affect the siting of the antennae may have on the surrounding area;
  • Where the antennae are to be fixed to buildings that the structure and fixing details are suitable (including an asbestos check). For such installations it will be necessary to determine whether for certain maintenance functions it may be necessary for contractors or others to work in close proximity to the antennae. If yes, inform the valuation section;
  • Any services affected by the installation have been identified and that the cost of any alteration work will be covered by the telecommunication operator;
  • The source of the electrical supply to feed the base station has been identified and the cost of the work, including metering, is included within the proposals;
  • Any lightning protection necessary is included within the proposals;
  • Identify any building maintenance, within close proximity to the installation, that may be necessary in the next 5 to 10 years that could be carried out now, possibly at the cost of the telecommunication operator to minimise future disturbance to their installation.

2. Planning

  • That the installation does not contravene any planning requirements with the team leader for County Council Development Management on Oxford (018650) 815584.

3. Valuation

  • Ascertain ownership of the building and whether landlords approval is required;
  • That mast proposals would not conflict with any future proposals for the site or building;
  • Draft and negotiate heads of terms for a lease or tenancy;
  • Ensure that an appropriate lease or tenancy has been entered into before any works take place if the base station is either to be placed on council property or if the means of access to it for say maintenance purposes is county council owned. The tenancy should include a provision that will allow the station to be shut down should repair work become necessary in close proximity to the antennae.

4. Pre-contract meeting

Consultant to arrange for a pre-contract meeting to be held, attended by the consultant, the telecommunication operator (or its contractors) and the Head of Establishment (or nominated representative).

5. Post completion inspection

On completion of the installation the consultant is to arrange for an inspection to be carried out to ensure that the work has been carried out satisfactorily, to the agreed specification and in the correct location. A set of as built plans to be included with the lease agreement. Arrange for the monitoring to be carried out when the installation is fully operational.

Note: Leasing of buildings
When leasing in properties for use by the county council seek an agreement from the owners that they will not allow the installation of telecommunication base stations on the property without the approval of the county council. If this is not acceptable to the owner discuss with the Property and Facilities before proceeding with the lease agreement.