Phone mast plea falls on deaf ears

A Scottish Executive planning official has turned down pleas to reject plans for a mobile phone mast near two homes for the elderly and disabled in Dundee (writes Grant Smith).

A petition signed by 31 residents of Naughton Place, near Balgay Cemetery, warned that “many disabled, partially-sighted and retired people will have another obstacle to negotiate on the pavement they use regularly”.

They urged the Executive to tell mobile phone operator Hutchison 3G it could not erect a 12-metre mast with equipment cabinet at the base that would extend almost a third of the pavement.

Naughton Place is home to Blackwood Court, a complex of 70 homes, many of them occupied by people who need wheelchairs or have limited mobility, run by the Margaret Blackwood Housing Association. There is also a complex for the elderly run by the Servite Housing Association.

Dundee City Council had already backed their appeal, turning down Hutchison’s planning application because of its effect on pedestrian safety and the amenity of the area. The mast would be much taller than the trees and lampposts in the area and would be visually dominant and intrusive, it said.

But Hutchison exercised its right to appeal to the Executive’s planning inquiry unit, arguing its proposals complied with the rules and that the council had not taken into account the lack of alternative sites.

The company had looked at nine other possible locations, including the Menzieshill water tower in Yarrow Terrace and the Mills Observatory in Balgay Park.

The Shand pub, Royal Victoria Hospital and St Ninian’s Church were also on the list — but all were either too far away to provide proper coverage or would be affected by interference from existing phone equipment or nearby trees.

Hutchison said the pavement was three metres wide and the equipment cabinet just under one metre. The space left for pedestrians was in line with the council’s own roads standards and the Government’s mobility guide on wheelchairs.

Executive reporter Donald Watt visited the site and said in his written judgment that on the same side of the road as the proposed mast were road signs, street lights and a bus shelter, so it was unlikely the equipment would detract significantly from the look of the area.

He went on, “Turning to the issue of pedestrian safety, the equipment cabinet is just under one metre in depth, leaving a footpath at least two metres wide for pedestrian passage.

“This accords with both the national and local guidance on footpath construction standards in relation to the needs of pedestrians and the disabled in particular.

“Accordingly, I conclude there are no material considerations in this appeal sufficient to warrant withholding the grant of planning permission.”

This is the sixth time in the last year the Executive has upheld an appeal by a mobile phone operator after the council refused planning consent for a mast.

© All copyright D C Thomson & Co Ltd., 2007

//www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/output/2007/05/22/story9749671t0.shtm

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