Contentious mast bid approved

The planned site for the mast.
The planned site for the mast.

A controversial bid to site a 12-metre pole at a coastal beauty spot has been approved by majority decision – to the horror of objectors.

Arqiva Ltd is behind the plan to erect the structure at the Village Green, Harbour Road, Beadnell, which lies within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The mast will be part of the smart meter communications network that will enable smart electricity and gas meters to homes and small businesses across Britain by 2020. The Beadnell structure would provide the local area with the necessary coverage to benefit from a smart meter.

The company argued that this site, on the approach to the village, was the best, striking ‘the best balance between environmental and operational considerations’.

The firm said that it had looked at other sites in the area, but these had been unsuitable for a number of reasons.

The company added that it had carried out pre-application consultation, however, this was disputed by objectors, such as Beadnell Parish Council and Bamburgh county councillor John Woodman.

Objectors criticised the scheme’s location, branding it unsuitable, and that the applicant had not demonstrated that the ‘highly-visible’ site was essential for the proper operation of the structure.

The application, which was recommended for approval, went before the county council’s planning and performance committee on Tuesday, December 22.

Speaking at the meeting against the scheme, Beadnell parish councillor Deborah Baker said the proposed site of the ‘alien structure’ was a ‘highly-sensitive location’ and that it would tower above the trees.

She added that she was not against the installation of the pole in the parish, recognising the benefits it will bring, but called for the scheme to be deferred for a full investigation of alternative locations and engagement with the community.

Three councillors on the planning and performance committee supported the objectors and voted against the scheme.

Coun Trevor Thorne said: “It is an essential bit of kit, but this site is special and it is a lovely bit of Northumberland. Let’s do our homework and look at more sites so that we don’t spoil the entrance to one of the most scenic sites.”

Coun Gordon Castle described it as ‘the most scenic approach to the dunes in the county’ and wanted the application to be deferred to find an alternative site.

Coun Heather Cairns branded the location ludicrous, saying that tourists would think ‘we are mad’ to have the pole sited there.

However, not all councillors were against the scheme.

Speaking in favour, Coun Colin Horncastle said: “It is not a large structure with a turbine stuck on top. It is a tiny pole. For years, people who live in places like this complain that they haven’t got any technical infrastructure.

“Yet here we have got a company, they are the technical experts, and they have chosen this site for a reason, so it must be the best site for this apparatus. But we have got all this nonsense – just go and make a decision. These sorts of poles are there for a reason – we need them.

“Move into the 21st century. No matter where the company would want to site this, there would be objections from local people.”

Councillors voted five to three in favour of the scheme, which prompted one member of the public to react angrily.

He branded the company’s agent, Mark Flaherty, of Daly International – who had spoken in favour of the scheme at the meeting – a liar and shouted at the councillors who had voted in favour of the scheme to ‘do your jobs’.