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Telecoms

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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.

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.

In 2002 a faculty was granted for the installation of telecoms equipment in the church tower. A document entitled "Lease of Rights" was entered into by the then incumbent and the PCC and O2 (UK) Limited, but it was not authorised by the faculty. In 2013 the telecoms company wished to make changes to the equipment. Some work was done without faculty, but then an application was made in 2016 for a confirmatory faculty to approve the additional works. It was not clear to the Chancellor till much later that some of the work had not yet been done. The Chancellor was concerned about the lack of proper representation, the proposed draft lease/licence, and that before the proceedings were concluded the telecoms company decided to withdraw from the site, so that the Chancellor had to approve terms for the decommissioning of the equipment.