telecoms mast approved on technicality

Phone Mast Correspondence Summary

The proposed phone mast on the Hornsey Cricket playing fields has become quite a saga from the initial proposal, the strong opposition (from local residents, associations such as ourselves, The Hornsey Club and other interested groups), on to the subsequent refusal of the application by Haringey Council only for it to be overturned on a technicality that has been put down to an error in Council planning application software!

Current Situation

The council decision to refuse of the application was received by the applicants after the 56 day deadline, and the application was therefore deemed to be approved.  They are now able to press ahead and build the mast and are seeking permission from the club to access the land.

You can see all previous posts on this topic here >>

GMTRA Response

GMTRA has been active in the initial opposition to the proposal and getting the Council decision to refuse the application. Since  the decision was overturned there has been extensive communication with the different parties and representatives seeking to get the original decision upheld and to understand how there could be such a huge error on such an important matter. Many emails have been sent and received, below is key correspondence from the last few weeks:

Letter to councillors From GMTRA o3/01/24

Dear Lester
We spoke this evening about the prior approval application that was submitted back in March to build a 5G telecom mask on the Hornsey cricket club field. (Application Reference


There was strong local opposition to the proposal, including from the Hornsey Club itself, and the council decision was to refuse the application.

I understand that the developer has now approached the Hornsey Club to claim that the council decision was received after the 56 day deadline, and the application was therefore deemed to be approved.  They are proposing to press ahead and build the mast and are seeking permission from the club to access the land.

I have tried to contact the planning officer who dealt with the case (Mr Kwaku Bossman-Gyanera) leaving two messages, but have had no response.

I would be very grateful for your help in clarifying:

  • Is the council aware of the developer’s intentions?
  • Was the notice of decision sent outside the 56 day time limit?
  • If so, why? And what is the council going to do to remedy this and ensure the clear decision of the council to refuse the application is implemented?
Adam Sharples
Chair, GMTRA

Responses From Councillors & Council Replies To Their Questions

Robbie McNaugher, Head of Development Management, provided the following response to councillors. Forwarded to GMTRA 12/01/24:

Unfortunately it is correct that the applicant has permission despite our refusal as the decision was issued a day later than the deadline.  The relevant legislation was drafted to give an automatic approval where a decision is not made within the 56 day time limit.  There has been a number of appeal decisions nationally that have confirmed this.

The error has arisen from how our new database was configured at the time of this decision.  It allowed an additional day within the deadline for a decision which meant the refusal was issued on day 57 rather than day 56.  We have since corrected this when the issue was brought to our attention by two decisions in August; this site and Tottenham that recently been constructed.

A number of concerns were raised by objectors to the application including safety concerns.  The refusal of the application was on the basis that the appearance of the proposed equipment was not acceptable and was not based on any safety concerns.

In terms of health impacts, planning law and policy requires that applications for electronic communications development should be accompanied by a statement or declaration that certifies that when operational, equipment will be compliant with the ICNIRP guidelines for limiting exposure to electromagnetic fields.  This application was submitted with an ICNIRP certificate (attached) which means our assessment can then only focus on the impact on the structure itself in terms of its appearance and location.

In terms of the wider science around the issue of 5G I’ve attached 2 documents which explain the position on 5G.  They note that in relation to 5G, Public Health England have said that “the overall exposure is expected to remain low relative to guidelines and, as such, there should be no consequences for public health”.  They also note that “ofcom carries out measurements to confirm transmitter base stations do not exceed the restrictions set out in the ICNIRP guidelines. Ofcom has measured radio wave emission levels at 5G sites in 10 UK towns and cities and, in all cases, the levels recorded are a small fraction of those in the ICNIRP guidelines”.

The refusal would have likely be subject to an appeal had the decision been issued within time so it was not guaranteed to have been upheld.

Whilst we deeply regret the error here we have no powers to enforce our refusal as the proposed mast has received deemed permission.

I hope that you are satisfied with my response to your enquiry.  If you have any follow-up queries or need more information, please contact Member Enquiries in the first instance.

Yours sincerely,


Robbie McNaugher MRTPI
Head of Development Management and Planning Enforcement

In return Councillor Luke Cawley-Harrison sent the following response:

Hi Robbie,

Thanks for your response to this, however this is clearly a huge and shocking error. It also speaks to why this councils culture of everything seemingly always being done on the last day possible has to end immediately. This is not limited to planning decisions, but member enquiries, housing issues, complaint responses etc. Always on the last day for no reason, and as evidenced here – this can have serious consequences. Had the decision been issued prior to the last day, even with the software issue then this error would not have occurred and the application would have been refused.

I appreciate you have stated that the software has been changed to resolve the issue, but I am afraid it was still implemented in the first place.

I wish to know:

  • who was responsible for the error being introduced (the software providers, council IT, planning dept etc)
  • when exactly was the error identified and exactly what steps were then taken
  • who has been informed of the error and the serious consequences of it within the council including specific officers and members
  • why were ward councillors for impacted applications not made aware of the error, or indeed all members
  • what contact has been made with objectors to the affected applications and to the land owners in particular to explain the situation
  • what support is being offered by the council to the affected landowners to help them prevent the development despite the automatically approved application
  • what mechanisms are available to the landowners to prevent the development on their land
  • how many planning application decisions have been issued on the last or penultimate day due within the last 12 months Vs those issued before this
  • what action is being taken to ensure decisions are no longer being made so close to the deadline, and indeed, as swiftly as possible
  • how many applications within the last 12 months were not issued a decision notice within the correct timeframe
  • how many applications have been granted within the last twelve months due to the council not issuing a decision before the deadline.

Thank you,

Luke Cawley-Harrison
Councillor Crouch End Ward

GMTRA Follow Up 09/02/24 & Replies


Hi Luke
I wondered if you had received any response from the council to your further questions?
Adam Sharples
Chair, GMTRA

Robbie McNaugher, Head of Development Management, provided the following response to councillors. Forwarded to GMTRA 12/02/24:

The error in the software configuration was ultimately the Council’s, it was our responsibility to check how it had been set up given the consequences for these applications.  We were made aware of the error in the system on 31st July for another application and for this application notified by the applicant on 23rd August and finally corrected in September. I recognise this is not as quick as it should have been. Thankfully no other applications were affected in that time.

I accept that given the decision on the application had effectively changed from that which people were notified of we should have provided a revised notification.  This should have included ward Cllrs we had taken an interest in this application.  We will now issue a revised notice so that all those who objected are clear on the position.  Our immediate priority was to seek to negotiate with the telecoms operator to minimise the impact (as set out in the reasons for refusal) but they were not willing to make the changes we proposed.

As you know my team are working hard with limited resources which inevitably means decision run up to deadlines, we are creating alerts within the database to alert officers to approaching deadlines for these applications to minimise the risk of these deadlines being missed.  We believe only 2 applications have been affected by this error as it only applies to a limit number of prior approval application types.

In terms of assisting the landowners, the telcomms operators have powers to use land unless there is good reason and can seek a court order to do so.  This is a civil process which the Council cannot interfere with.  The Club will receive rent for the use of their land so will be compensated, I’ve found some relevant guidance on these matters on the links below:—summer-2023/negotiations-over-telecoms-masts.aspx

I must reiterate my apologies, I am happy to meet with interested parties to explain.  The implementation of our new software has largely been very successful but sadly the errors have undermined that.

Kind regards

Robbie McNaugher MRTPI
Head of Development Management and Planning Enforcement

Local Councillors Wrote To Waldon Telecom (Managing planning application on behalf of O2) 01/02/24


Cllr Cressida Johnson to Fiona Kadama – Waldon Telecom

We are writing to you as local Councillors for Haringey, where we represent Crouch End Ward.

I understand that there was an unfortunate error in responding to your application to build a 5G mast on the site of Hornsey Cricket Ground, in a conservation area known locally as a nature spot and sports area, which meant that council and resident objections arrived 24 hrs beyond the cut off time.

Haringey officers accept that the error was their fault, but we want to appeal to you not to penalise residents – your customers – even though legally you are free to build this structure.

Many residents wrote to us and responded to the consultation and were very clear that they do not want this mast to be built in this particular area, which is very dear to them.

We are writing to appeal to your sense of corporate kindness and fair play and ask you respectfully to desist in building the structure in this peaceful place.

We hope that Haringey officers will assist in finding a more appropriate spot to situate a mast and base station, where 5G users and your business could rightly benefit.

A rethink on this would be hugely appreciated by those of us who use this space daily for sport, dog walking and as a city oasis.

Will you generously consider our request?

Many thanks and best wishes,

Cressida Johnson and Lester Buxton

Councillor Cressida Johnson
Labour Member for Crouch End

Response from Waldon Telecom/Cornerstone 2/02/24

Dear Councillors,

Thank you for your email; Fiona has passed it to me to reply .  We understand that deemed consents such as this can lead to concerns for communities around our base stations.  However, deemed consents are a valid part of the planning process and having given great consideration to the location and design of the proposal, we are inclined to build this site in due course.

We understand that you and some members of the local community will be disappointed by this decision, but the installation will provide reliable digital services for residents and visitors to the area.

Kind regards


Jenny Bye
London Planning and Relationship Strategy Manager