Telecommunications company fined £40k for illegal use of a generator attached to phone mast

Northenden Telecomms mast

A mobile telecommunications company has been ordered to pay thousands of pounds in fines for failing to cease the use of a generator attached to a mobile phone mast on a golf course in Northenden.

Mobile Broadband Network Limited (MBNL), which according to the company accounts is jointly owned by BT Group and CK Hutchinson Holdings, first erected a temporary mobile phone mast and diesel generator at Northenden Golf Course in March 2018 using emergency development rights.

The mast and generator should have been removed by September 2019 and at the end of the emergency development rights, planning permission was refused to keep it on the land for a further 12 months. A planning enforcement notice was issued to MBNL by Manchester City Council in July 2020.

MBNL was handed a fine of £40,000 at a Magistrates’ Court hearing on Monday 16 January for failing to comply with the planning enforcement notice and it was also ordered to pay £1,208 costs and £181 victim of crime surcharge within 28 days.

The enforcement notice gave MBNL until 1 September 2021 to switch off the generator. The Council provided MBNL with the opportunity to provide its account under caution, but no response was received from MBNL. After officers observed that the generator was still in operation almost six months later, the Council began prosecution proceedings against MBNL for its failure to comply with the planning enforcement notice.

It was only after MBNL was summoned to Court that the mast and generator were finally removed in October 2022, three years after the emergency period expired and one year after the enforcement notice should have been complied with.

In arriving at the decision, the judge said  that the smoke from the generator caused harm to nearby neighbouring residents and noted MNBL’s £125m+ annual turnover.  

Cllr Gavin White, Manchester City Council’s executive member for housing and development, said:

“I hope the level of fine in this case sends a strong message to companies – regardless of their size – that planning regulations are in place to protect local communities from development that could cause harm.

“We take our enforcement responsibilities seriously and where we find inappropriate development – whether that be a phone mast or building – which hasn’t got the correct permissions, we will take action.” 

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