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Cambridge City Council

Clarification on Park Street car park telecommunications

News release from 9 February 2021

THE CONSTRUCTION and delivery phase of the project to redevelop Cambridge City Council’s Park Street car park site has been delayed, following an unexpected announcement by the appointed contractor of their withdrawal from the scheme.   

The car park was due to close in early 2021 and re-open in 2023 with the whole development being completed in 2024. However, the programme for closure will now be determined by the design work and tendering process required to secure a new contractor with tenders due in May 2021. 

The council has let space on Park Street car park to EE and Hutchinson 3G for their telecommunication equipment, providing mobile phone coverage to this area of Cambridge. 

The proposed redevelopment of the car park requires that EE and Hutchinson 3G relocate their equipment and they have been aware of the council’s redevelopment proposals for many years.

The telecommunications equipment on the car park was to be removed by January 2021 but it has been agreed this can now remain until 27 June 2021.

As EE and Hutchinson 3G were aware of the council’s plans, they have been seeking alternative locations for their equipment for a while. It is not possible to use the redeveloped Park Street site for the telecommunications equipment due to the construction duration and the use of the whole site during construction.

A site originally identified by EE unfortunately did not progress. A recent planning application for a permanent  alternative site was refused on conservation grounds, highlighting the difficulties in providing such equipment in a conservation area. 

EE and Hutchinson 3G may appeal but are also actively looking at other sites with a view to moving straight from the car park to a new permanent location which is the preferred outcome. The delayed start to the car park redevelopment helps in this respect.

If an alternative site cannot be secured in time, this will lead to network disruption and an impact on mobile phone cover in this area. 

In the event that EE and Hutchinson 3G are not able to secure a permanent relocation site in time, they have stated that they will use their ‘Code’ powers under the Communications Act 2003 to temporarily site a mast on other land. Their agents have stated their intent to use these powers to site such a mast on Jesus Green, contrary to the council’s wishes. 

The council is not supportive of the use of Jesus Green but due to the ‘Code’ powers that telecommunication operators have, it is not able to prevent this either as landowner or planning authority. The council has received legal advice on its position on this issue.

EE and Hutchinson 3G have served an emergency notice on the council’s planning service of its intent to use Jesus Green for a maximum of 18 months for siting its equipment (Planning Ref 20/05325/P16) stating that it will use its permitted development rights for this. 

This was initially recorded as a planning application but it is a notice required to be served by telecommunication operators and does not require the council’s approval. There is no provision in the legislation for public consultation on such notices or the proposed use.

By reaching agreement with EE and Hutchinson 3G and extending the use of Park Street car park, the longest period for using Jesus Green would be from 27 June 2021 to 26 June 2022 and they would not to seek to use Jesus Green after that for a period of two years.

EE and Hutchinson 3G also agree that they will endeavour to find an alternative permanent location at the earliest opportunity to possibly minimise the time spent on Jesus Green.

This will minimise time required to use Jesus Green should it remain the only option and this time period will be legally enforceable, compared to 18 months that may be granted without agreement.

A council spokesperson said: “It is disappointing that an alternative permanent site for the telecommunications equipment has not been secured.

“The council does not consider Jesus Green to be a suitable site even though the use will be temporary, recognising that this will be universally unpopular. The telecommunication operators’ powers, however, make any challenge unlikely to be successful and incur significant cost. 

“The council has therefore sought to minimise the impact by extending the use of Park Street car park, ensuring the use of Jesus Green is for a maximum of 12 months and that there can be no return for two years after their vacation.

“EE and Hutchinson 3G has agreed that it will endeavour to find an alternative permanent location at the earliest opportunity and the council will continue to work with them on this.”