Vodafone calls in AS Biss

Vodafone has drafted in AS Biss & Co to provide advice on a major piece of planning legislation.

The firm is keen to maximise its chances of gaining planning permission for the erection of mobile phone masts in Scotland, which is undergoing the biggest reform of its planning system for 50 years. Much of the country is national parkland.

The Scottish Executive's Planning Bill, which is passing through parliament, aims to speed up the planning process and introduce a hierarchy of applications.

A ‘national planning framework' will prioritise projects deemed strategically necessary for Scotland's development, such as transport infrastructure, followed by large housing and shopping developments.

The bill is controversial because while it purports to involve the public more in the planning process, it excludes proposals for third-party right of appeal, dismaying environmentalists.

Vodafone is expected to argue that ensuring strong cross-country communications links via the building of masts is critical to the vibrancy of the Scottish economy.

A Vodafone spokesman confirmed that AS Biss had triumphed in a competitive pitch for the work, but stressed the appointment was subject to contract.

The review was overseen by UK head of public affairs Emma Wilson.

The agency becomes Vodafone's sole external public affairs consultancy. It has previously worked with Fleishman-Hillard and PPS Group. However, the spokesman said that regarding its wider PA requirements, ‘the situation is under review', adding that this could lead to the search for greater assistance.

Vodafone hired Matthew Kirk, British Ambassador to Finland, to co-ordinate public policy across its markets six months ago (PRWeek, 20 January). Lord MacLaurin will hand over his chairmanship to Sir John Bond at next Tuesday's AGM.

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