Site Acquisition Section
By Alex Rothney 9/05/09
The Transmitter Engineering Department [later renamed Transmitter Group]
has always had the responsibility of acquiring the sites for BBC
transmitting stations, in co-operation with the transmitter installation,
and building and legal departments.
This was true with the enormous increase of sites needed to fulfil the
changeover from VHF to UHF. Far more stations were required because the
coverage from a UHF transmitter is very much less than from a VHF
transmitter of the same power.
To cope for the extra work, a new section was created, Site Acquisition
Section. Initially it had three senior engineers, two junior engineers and
two secretaries, but later another senior engineer, two more secretaries and
an office clerk were added.
An innovation was that there was an agreement that the BBC and the ITA
would share all the UHF stations. SAS would acquire sites for half of the
stations, and an equivalent new section in the ITA would acquire the
remainder. Each body would provide its own transmitting equipment, but the
aerial system and transmitter building for both would be provided by the
body acquiring the site. The UK was divided up into areas for each
The BBC Research Department decided where the transmitters should be
One of the SAS Senior Engineers was Head of Section and he would decided
who would deal with each RD recommendation. The site engineer would then
arrange to visit the proposed site, usually using his own car, or a hire
car. With distant sites sometimes the journey could be made by rail or air
and hire car. On the first visit a field strength meter and portable aerial
would have to taken, along with maps, a camera, a compass, binoculars and
perhaps an altimeter, (Wot! No Satnav?) hence the need for car transport.
The RD recommended site would be located, and an initial judgment made.
It might have been built over, or be at the end of an airport runway, etc
One example is where there was a small hill between the proposed site and
the area to be served, but this did not appear on the O.S. map because the
top of the hill had not penetrated the next contour boundary.
If the site was considered suitable, its ownership had to be found, and
negotiations started. If they failed, a search would be made for an
alternative. A purchase was preferred, otherwise a long lease with a right
to renew. All would be subject to satisfactory reception and planning
consent, and also approved by the Director of Engineering, which was
virtually automatic. Photographs were taken of the site and access.
The planning authority needed to be sounded out. If all went well the
site finder returned to base and arranged for full reception tests on the
site, carried out by the junior engineers with, originally, a Land-Rover
with a telescopic mast and measuring equipment. There must be high quality
reception from a parent station. Later SAS was equipped with a Mercedes
Unimog, a larger and more effective cross country vehicle.
An “Event 20” document, giving full details of the site was then produced
and copies sent to Research Department, Transmitter Planning & Installation
Department, Building Department, the BBC Solicitor and the ITA,. Also, an
Application for Outline Planning Consent was made by the site finder.
In the event of planning consent being refused, an application would be
made for a Planning Inquiry. The site finder would become the expert
witness, and a barrister appointed.
Occasionally site finders attended public meetings to explain BBC needs.
Monthly progress reports on each site were issued to all concerned
Site Acquisition Section became so successful that its services were
sought in acquiring facilities for setting up other radio facilities, such
as finding sites for local radio transmitting stations or direct point to
point radio links, and other matters concerning land such matters of rights
of way at Rampisham, which resulted in a public inquiry with a satisfactory
Radio users, other than BBC, often applied for aerial space on BBC aerial
masts and towers. Provided Building Dept gave its approval to the mast/tower
loading, SAS negotiated the terms.
When Libya decided to have a television service in 1965, it sought
guidance from the BBC. BBC engineers were involved in all aspects of
training and construction work, including an SAS site finder being sent out
to establish sites for several high power and low power TV transmitting
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