29 November 2000
The Archbishops' Council of the Church of England today (29 November) unveils a new initiative in support of 13,000 parochial church councils (PCCs) increasingly faced with deciding whether or not to allow telecommunications operators to install aerials in church spires and towers, often with considerable inducement.
The Archbishops' Council takes the view that, whilst it is up to each of the PCCs, who look after the Church of England's 16,000 churches in all, to decide whether or not to respond to an invitation from a telecommunications operator, they would value national guidance. 'Approaches are being made daily,' says Richard Hopgood, the Council's Director of Policy, 'and it makes sense to have some common national understanding of health and safety, environmental, conservation and access issues.'
In addition, if sufficient incumbents and PCCs indicate they are interested, the Council will consider awarding a marque to those telecommunications operators who agree to abide by forthcoming guidelines covering health and safety, environmental, conservation and access issues. 'It is up to the parish to decide if they wish to pursue the idea,' adds Mr Hopgood, 'and it is much better for all concerned if they can proceed from a position of vigilant trust rather than wariness.'
The Council has consulted widely within and outside the Church on this initiative. The guidelines are expected to embody the same best practice approach to environmental and health and safety issues as the Church already employs in matters of conservation.
The Church of England's Council for the Care of Churches indicates that several of its 44 dioceses and hundreds of parishes have already been approached as the pressure grows on the winning (3G) license operators to have 87% of their coverage in place by 2007. With rents for individual sites of £5,000pa and in some cases considerably more, there are opportunities for churches to raise 'new money' for conservation and mission, as well as obviating the necessity for ugly masts and enabling better coverage for mobile phones.