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Telecoms

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This is a decision on costs given by the Dean of Arches in respect of his refusal to grant leave to appeal (Re St. James Kidbrooke [2017] EACC 1).

Faculty granted for telecommunications equipment, overruling objections regarding the possible harmful effects of radio waves and removal of old wooden stairs from the spire and replacement with a hooped access ladder and new hatch.

There was a petition by the Rector and Churchwardens and a telecommunications company seeking permission for the installation of six antennae and a transmission dish in the bell tower behind replacement GRP louvres, and the completion of a licence agreement. There were three written objections. Two of the objectors raise an issue about the adequacy of publication. The Chancellor gave a preliminary decision on this issue, directing that, in view of the sensitivity of the subject-matter, there should be republication of the notices.

The Rector and Churchwardens petitioned for a faculty to permit the installation of telecommunications equipment in the tower of the Grade II* church, and to permit the completion of a licence agreement with Net Coverage Solutions Limited. There were over 80 objectors, none of whom became parties opponent. Faculty granted.

This decision contains directions arising from a further objection received following the decision in Re St. Luke Charlton [2016] ECC Swk 1, which related to the proposed installation of telecoms equipment in the church tower. The new objector claimed that the proposed equipment would emit harmful radiation. The Chancellor pointed out that, in view of the Court of Arches decision in Re Emmanuel Church Bentley (2006), he could not refuse a faculty  on the grounds of danger to health, if the proposed equipment complied with international guidelines, which it did. To pursue such a claim might therefore put the objector at risk of an order for costs, if he pursued such an objection. The Chancellor therefore gave the objector 21 days in which to consider the leagl position and decide whether he wished to withdraw his objection.

The Chancellor considered six faculty petitions relating to telecoms equipment for six churches in London: St. Mary Cable Street, St. George-in-the-East, Christ Church Staines, St. Stephen Hounslow, St. Andrew Uxbridge and All Saints Ealing. In 2011 the Chancellor had issued a practice direction regarding the installations of telecoms equipment, in light of which he was concerned at teh way teh proposals had been negotiated. The Chancellor granted faculties, but wished to express in judgment form his misgivings about the process of negotiations.

The Vicar and Churchwardens petitioned to authorise the installation of telecommunications equipment in the spire of the Victorian Grade II* church. Three people objected to the proposals and two of them became parties to the proceedings. The objectors expressed grave concern that the health of families living within 250m of the church tower and the children attending the nursery school and the two schools not far from the church could be affected by the radio waves emitted from the mast. The Chancellor was satisfied from doucmentary evidence that the proposed system fell within internationally accepted safety guidelines and therefore he granted a faculty.

The proposal was to install telecommunications antennae in the Grade I church and to enter into an agreement with the telecommunications contractor. Two parishioners objected, on the grounds that people could suffer from harmful radiation, but they did not wish to become parties opponent. The Chancellor granted a faculty. Referring to the Court of Arches judgment in Re Emmanuel Church, Bentley [2006] 1 Fam 39, he pointed out that, where the Government set the permitted levels of radiation as a prerequisite of planning consent, it would be wrong for the consistory courts to apply lower guidelines.

In 2017 a faculty had been granted to authorise the installation of telecommunications equipment in the church tower, subject to a 20 year licence between NET Coverage Solutions Ltd (“NCS”) and the Parochial Church Council. NCS now wished to limit its activities to providing telecommunications infrastructure and to assign the licence to a company called Shared Access ("SA"), which would in future deal with the telecommunications operators and manage their licences. There were said to be some of advantages in this arrangement as a result of the passing of the Digital Economy Act 2017 and the coming into operation of the Electronic Communications Code on 28 December 2017.  The Chancellor authorised the assignment to SA, subject to a condition that an undertaking in writing by SA would be given to the Court, that it would not register so as to be in a position to apply for Code Rights under the Electronic Communications Code.

The Team Vicar and the church fabric officer petitioned for a faculty to authorise the installation of wireless broadband equipment in the tower of the church, situated in a remote and beautiful village where broadband speeds were extremely poor. The PCC approved the proposals by 7 votes for and 2 against, the two dissenters being the two churchwardens, who became parties opponent. The Chancellor determined to grant a faculty. The physical and aesthetic impacts on the church would be minimal, and the advantages of the installation would be of great benefit to the rural community.