his article is drawn from
experience of many Planning
Advice Committee (PAC) cases –
please note that rules are different for
tenants (especially Council tenants),
those who live in listed buildings or
conservations areas and may vary
slightly outside of England.
For most amateurs who have problems
with planning, the first sign of trouble is an
unexpected visitor – the Council Planning
Enforcement Officer. Why have they called?
Enforcement Officers rarely cruise the area
looking for unauthorised development so,
in most cases, they come in response to a
complaint – and that usually comes from a
neighbour. So we should have a word about
Neighbours range from ‘never, ever’ to
‘can I help you put it up’ – and all shades
between. Some neighbours will always be
‘never, ever’ but, apart from them, most
neighbours can be gently nudged towards
‘can I help you put it up’.
How to do this? Talk to them, be polite
and civil, give them (or their children)
Christmas presents, cut their lawn if they are
unwell – almost whatever it takes (as long,
obviously, as it can be justified to your and
their partners!). Are they doing something
you don’t like? Consider carefully before
complaining about anything they do – one
complaint may well lead to another (as the
amateur in a recent case found to his cost).
Even talking to them about the hobby and
explaining what you are putting up and why
is really helpful.
But, to return to the unexpected visitor,
Enforcement Officers tend not to be qualified
planners – so take what they say about
planning with a pinch of salt. But here are
some do’s and don’ts and some untruths.
1. Do let them in, show them what you have
and explain what amateur radio is. They
have a statutory power of entry, so turning
them away only antagonises them and
delays things – better to start off on the
2. Explain to the Enforcement Officer that
you would like to take advice (this will be
expected) and give them a timescale (that
they can use to pacify the complainant).
Stick to the timescale (or, if you need an
extension, ask for it in plenty of time and
have a good reason). Most Enforcement
Officers are remarkably tolerant as long as
you communicate with them and do what
3. If the four year rule applies (see below) it
does no harm to say so.
4. Under no circumstances offer to take
or make a planning
5. They may point out that planning rules
allow you to put up a conventional TV
aerial plus two small satellite dishes;
and that what you have is greater than
that and so should come down (and
that nothing else is allowed). This is true
that this right does not affect your
ability to make an application and have
it properly considered or to rely on other
rights (see later).
6. Be aware that the Enforcement Officer
has no power to make you take an aerial
down (whatever they may say) without
first serving an Enforcement Notice and
only then after the appeal rights have
been exhausted. Whilst all this is going on
(expect it to take months) there is no need
to take anything down and you remain
on the air. You may receive a letter from
the Enforcement Officer ‘instructing’ you
to take down the aerial or else (and the
language can be quite threatening) – but
this letter has no legal force. So
comply with ‘instructions’ in letters like
7. Don’t sit on your hands hoping that it will
go away (it won’t). You need to start doing
So what next?
First establish (and try to agree with the
Council) what actually needs permission – so
you have a base position of aerials that do not
need fresh permission in which you are on
the air and from which things can develop.
So what doesn’t usually need permission ?
• Aerials that you can show have been in
place unchanged (except for maintenance)
for 4 years or more – read carefully my
article on the Four Year Rule
• Small aerials – TV aerial-sized antennas
or long wires are usually regarded as ‘de
• Small aerials attached to the dwelling that
don’t exceed the eaves height.
Note this is very broad brush and this is
the point at which you may need the RSGB
PAC’s advice – take some photos and do
Stephen Purser, GW4SHFcompany.email@example.com
At the first sign of problems, get in touch with the RSGB Planning Advice Committee, don’t delay.