Council hangs up phone mast bid

A CONTROVERSIAL scheme to erect a 12.5 metre-high mast in a north Northumberland village has been booted out by councillors, to the delight of objectors.

Vodafone was seeking permission for a telecommunications replica telegraph pole to be sited directly in front of Kings Street Garage in Seahouses.

It was claimed that the structure, which would have been positioned on the footpath on King Street, would have improved network coverage in the area.

But the application sparked criticism from parish councillors, residents and the garage’s owner Mr Thompson, and fuelled two petitions with nearly 550 signatures.

Objectors voiced their disapproval on the grounds of safety, possible effects of radiation and obstruction of the pavement on a busy thoroughfare.

It was also said that the BT Telephone Exchange site, near the main car park, was supposed to hold any additional masts, mitigating the need for building any more in the village, which is part of the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

At Thursday’s meeting, members unanimously rejected bid.

Speaking after the meeting, George Dawson, 84, whose home is on the other side of the street to where the mast would have been sited, said: “A lot of people use that path and if they had put the mast there, it would have become very narrow. It was no good, it wasn’t the right place.”

He said that the proposed location was so inappropriate that the only other place in the village which would have been more dangerous was in the middle of the road on Main Street.

Coun Geoffrey Stewart, chairman of North Sunderland Parish Council , which objected on a number of grounds, added after the meeting: “I’m pleased it has gone out.

“We put in a big objection about it. It wasn’t sensible to put it where it was, that was ludicrous.”

The proposal was for a shared installation to meet the coverage requirements of both O2 and Vodafone, which both operate 2G and 3G mobile phone networks in the area.

A survey for the operators showed that Vodafone’s existing 2G coverage did not satisfy licence requirements and the applicant claimed that the mast would greatly improve this.

Those behind the scheme said that other sites in the village had been considered, but rejected.

However, planning officers recommended the scheme be knocked back.

It was said that it was important to fully assess whether the proposed equipment could be sited on existing facilities to lower the potential impact on the area.

But it was claimed that the applicant had not fully assessed whether there were better locations available, especially as it was stated that negotiations relating to options on the existing BT depot had broken down and the council considered this to be a more suitable site in terms of visual sensitivity.

Officers also said that the 12.5m-high mast would be around double the size of the existing telegraph poles along King Street and that the proposed site was only 12 metres away from Seahouses Conservation Area.

Officers said it would be an ‘incongruous eye-catching feature’ which would have a negative impact on the setting of the AONB.