Proposal for new 5G telecoms mast in Rothbury meets with call for storm-resilience planning

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Concerns have been raised about the impact of a proposed new telecoms mast on the Grade I listed Cragside House and Gardens.

Clarke Telecom has submitted a planning application on behalf of Cornerstone, which represents the Vodafone and 02 networks for a 25-metre high mast and related infrastructure on land behind Addycombe Farm in Rothbury.

Should the mast be approved, it will result in improved 2G, 3G and 4G signal and deliver the first 5G signal to Rothbury.

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However, local councillor Steven Bridgett has asked for it to be called in for a decision by colleagues due to its proximity to the Cragside, the National Trust-managed visitor attraction.

Cragside House, near Rothbury.Cragside House, near Rothbury.
Cragside House, near Rothbury.

“The impact of this proposal upon this significance needs to be assessed by the applicant before this application can be determined,” says Cllr Bridgett.

"As part of the submission documents, I can find no evidence of this assessment having been carried out or a heritage statement having been produced.”

He has also called for back-up generation to be incorporated into any plans in the event of a power cut to ensure there is no repeat of the aftermath of Storm Arwen and Storm Malik when some residents were left with no means of emergency communication.

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That view is supported by the civil contingencies team at Northumberland County Council which has asked for the application to be reviewed.

It notes that Clarke Telecom Ltd intends to connect the mast to the main power supply but there is no mention of any backup power source in the event that the electricity network is disrupted.

In its pre-consultation letter, Clarke Telecom explains: “The site is needed to maintain and improve 2G, 3G, 4G coverage and capacity to ensure that customers continue to experience access to the latest service provision currently available and have access to a new 5G network.

"This is because the operator needs to find a replacement for the existing site, which is currently providing 2G, 3G and 4G services but cannot be upgraded for all operator technology requirements for technical reasons.

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"The proposed new installation will also meet the extra demands on the network in this area as new technologies improve increasing the demand for 4G and new 5G technologies.

“Cornerstone is limited in siting options as there is a requirement to provide equivalent replacement coverage and capacity for this area of Rothbury. The replacement of an existing site means that it has to be located as close as possible to the existing installation in order to maintain the provision of equivalent coverage and capacity to the surrounding local area. This is the nearest suitable location that Cornerstone is able to position their replacement apparatus.

“The proposed height at 25m is essential in order to provide equivalent replacement coverage to the target coverage area. 5G new radio technologies operate in higher frequency bands than older technologies.

"Since it operates at higher frequencies where attenuation of the radio signal is naturally higher, and the effects of clutter are greater it will normally require a higher structure to achieve the same coverage footprint.”

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