As an organisation our interest is not only to get justice for Armando. The same treatment he got from his neighbours and the council can be applied to anyone, but is a particular feature in the life of some radio amateurs. What happens is the amateur suddenly finds himself the victim of a malicious complaint aimed specifically to ruin his or her enjoyment of their property. As Armando’s local councillor (inappropriately) put it during his planning application, “if you put up an amateur radio antenna in your garden – you can expect people to have a go at it.”
We say that attitude is victim blaming, a technique used to mask the true motivation for a complaint, which is usually attributable to the controlling behaviour of the assailant. The type of complaints amateurs encounter are easily refuted, however the malicious complainer can get lucky when councils respond out of ignorance, to the loudest shout. In Armando’s case his assailant managed to motivate several complainers in an act of bullying, known as mobbing, to voice a number of complaints, most of which were fabricated. The mobbing went unaddressed despite being listed by the council as anti-social behaviour – council staff joined in blocking his goals and blighting his life and satisfying the assailant(s) need for power.
Being able to enjoy the use of your property is a human right and making malicious complaints is a criminal activity called Harassment.
The National Planning Policy Framework focuses on the needs of the community for housing. At an individual level, the needs of radio users are simple; to be able to deploy their property – the antennas they buy or develop, on the property they own or rent.
The Government Policy which rules the Planning Regime in the UK is the National Planning Policy Framework 2012.
On 12th March 2018, the secretary of state for communities and planning announced a public consultation about a newly drafted version of this policy. (See link above). This ran from March to May 2018 and is now closed.
The Armando Martins Campaign has consulted with the Radio Society of Great Britain over many of the issues he faced. We see eye to eye on a number of issues.
The problem in a nutshell is, the current framework excludes amateur radio as an entity. Amateur Antenna experimenters have to apply the rules for housing extensions, conservatories, sheds and garages. This limits the height and size available to a particular “virtual box” dependent on the size of the property. Council workers dealing with radio amateurs have no knowledge about amateur radio and are expected to make planning decisions etc. Successive re-writes of this policy have eliminated the needs of radio amateurs – making life more and more difficult.
It follows that to rectify this for the future, some improvements were needed to the policy, to improve relevance and define further the needs of radio amateurs.
The campaign was able to contribute as an organisation to the final version of the National Planning Policy Framework 2018. It asked for several amendments and shared information with the RSGB who agreed the suitability of those relating to amateur radio and telecommunications.
Amendments Improving Relevance to Part 10 Supporting High Quality Telecommunications
Firstly, where the draft states at Para 112 – Planning Policies and Decisions should support the expansion of electronic communications networks.
We asked to insert – that these are usually regulated by OFCOM.
By inserting this it would make it clear that amateur antenna developments would be included in planning policy.
Secondly the draft covers a number of situations applicable to telecommunications services at Para 115:
We asked to insert a new paragraph after para 115 c) as follows:
d) Applications for planning permission to install the masts often used by amateur radio operators, radio taxi firms and other private and commercial users, usually present few potential planning problems in terms of size and visual impact over a wide area and will not normally be of such a scale as to have a serious impact on local amenity. Such applicants will generally have less scope for using alternative sites or for sharing sites, and masts will often need to be located on the premises.
By inserting this, it would help resolve issues where scale and amenity were being misquoted in order to resist planning applications.
Where we don’t see eye to eye with RSGB has been in the field of abusive neighbours and nimbyism, There is a tendency for victim blaming here. Too often we hear you have to keep in with the neighbours and while we support that whole heartedly it is not appropriate to have to resort to bribery to avoid emotional abuse, as several amateurs have reported to us. Where neighbours have taken advantage of planning regulations to abuse us by making anonymous complaints for example. We therefore have also asked for the enforcement regulations to be centralised (one Policy for all areas), and gave feedback as to the requirement to have a system that could not be abused.
The consultation ended on 8th May 2018 and we are now waiting to see if our effort had any impact. There’s a chance it may not.
The revised policy as it stands is a welcome change and if all goes well, we will be able to close the campaign on the strength of it, having made all of our points. We asked RSGB to query the right to develop in the space above a property which was included in the policy.