Bid to improve Shropshire Hills mobile coverage with 83ft phone mast sparks objections from Long Mynd watchdogs

Champions of the environment have objected to plans for a mobile phone mast close to a Shropshire Hills beauty spot.

An impression of the mast in situ. Image: Cornerstone
An impression of the mast in situ. Image: Cornerstone

Mobile phone developers Cornerstone have applied to build a 25.5 metre (83ft) tower near Ratlinghope to fill a gaping phone 'not spot' for users of Vodafone, Telefonica UK and Hutchison 3G (Three) handsets.

Phil Holden, of the Shropshire Hills Area Of Natural Beauty Partnership, said: "While we are aware of the importance of improving mobile signal in this area, this is a highly sensitive location and we do not consider that alternative locations which could have less impact on the special qualities of the AONB [Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty] have been adequately considered.

"The proposed site is on a well-used track up on to the Long Mynd which has a very high scenic quality. It is also very close to the open moorland of the Long Mynd itself."

The mast would have a 'see through' lattice tower that would hold six antennas, four transmission dishes, three equipment cabinets, a meter cabinet, a generator and a fuel tank. It would be in a timber-fenced compound with an access track.

Mr Holden added that "inadequate consideration has been given to alternative sites with lower impact on the AONB and in particular of an important and well-used approach track to the Long Mynd.

"The value of the AONB landscape is such that the cheapest development option which causes harm to the AONB should not necessarily be chosen," he said.

Chris Lambart, on behalf of the National Trust, has offered to be part of a constructive dialogue to look at alternative options.

He has told planners at Shropshire Council that: "The proposed siting of the mast close to the track will make it an unduly and unacceptably prominent and intrusive feature within the Shropshire Hills AONB.

"We consider that in this case, permission should be refused because of the impact on the AONB.

"We are willing to be part of a constructive dialogue to look at alternative options for improving mobile phone reception in the area in a manner that causes less harm."

Developers Cornerstone have had pre-application talks with planners at Shropshire Council who have told them that the "principle of development could be considered acceptable".

But they add that any formal planning application would need to demonstrate that full account has been taken of any wider landscape and heritage impacts associated with the proposal.

A spokesman for Cornerstone has told the council that the proposal will ensure that "the latest 4G service provision is provided in this area".

The proposal is part of a Government-backed scheme called Shared Rural Network (SRN), a collaboration to improve 4G coverage for people living, working and travelling in poorly served rural areas.

They have told the council that the site is well away from residential properties and some 465m from the nearest road to the west (the B6318).

"The whole of the search area is located within the Shropshire Hills AONB which spans 802 square km. Therefore it is not possible to avoid locating a mast in this area," they say.

They add the proposal "strikes a good balance between environmental impact and operational considerations".

"The proposed height and design represents the best compromise between the visual impact of the proposal on the surrounding area and meeting the technical requirements for the site."

Cornerstone adds that: "Currently, there is a large ‘hole’ in service provision, which means that the majority of the operator’s customers cannot use their handheld devices for the purposes in which they were purchased."

They add that they have considered alternative sites but have ruled them out in favour of this one.

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