Householders may soon have much more freedom to install satellite dishes and other antennae on their houses, under proposed changes to existing planning regulations that were published on Monday by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
As part of its drive to improve the take-up of broadband and digital TV, the government has suggested relaxing the rules that currently restrict the number and type of dishes and antennae that can be installed on the outside of a dwelling, block of flats or commercial buildings. The most far-reaching of these proposals would see the elimination of many of today's existing restrictions.
"We are committed to delivering equality of access to digital TV and broadband across the country and this document is an important step in that direction," said planning minister Jeff Rooker in a statement launching the consultation.
"However, we must ensure that whatever changes are made provide proper protection for the environment, particularly in sensitive areas such as national parks and conservation areas," he added.
Rooker explained that the best way of making the planning system work for the community is by asking people what they want. "I want people to tell us what the rules on satellite dishes and antennas should be," Rooker said.
Currently, householders are only allowed to install one satellite dish without planning permission. Any second dish, or any first dish that is larger than a set size, or any other type of antenna, requires planning permission.
As the government points out in its proposals, although planning permission may not be refused, the cost of an application may be a deterrent. Satellite broadband is one solution for parts of the UK where ADSL and cable broadband isn't available, but it is significantly more expensive -- especially in terms of the start-up costs. One-way satellite services are much cheaper, but don't offer a fast uplink.
Some mesh radio systems -- multi-point to multi-point broadband services -- also involve the installation of an antenna on the outside of a building, although a recent trial of mesh radio carried out by BT was not successful.
A variety of options are listed in the consultation document, including increasing the number of antennae than can be installed without planning permission, increasing the number that can be installed on the front of a house, and increasing the number of dishes that can be installed on blocks of flats.
People have until 4 July to respond to the consultation, a full copy of which can be seen on the consultation's Web site.
This is the second recent consultation from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister that is aimed at improving the take-up of high-speed Internet services. Last month the department proposed forcing builders to make new houses broadband-ready.