Inspector hangs up on phone mast bid

Jun 4 2007

By Dave Black, The Journal

A bid to erect a 50ft-high mobile phone mast close to Hadrian's Wall has been rejected by a Government planning inspector.

T-Mobile wanted to put up the timber communications tower in a field near Heddon-on-the-Wall, less than 200m from the world heritage site.

The location - near the junction of the A69 and the old Military Road - is also close to the Hadrian's Wall footpath.

Planning permission was refused by local councillors last year because of the mast's likely impact on the scheduled ancient monument and its setting in open countryside.

Now T-Mobile's appeal against the decision has been thrown out by planning inspector Wenda Fabian, who says she is unconvinced that a less sensitive site cannot be found. The proposed location lies within the protected green belt and the Hadrian's Wall official world heritage site, where planning policy places the highest priority on preserving the character and appearance of the surrounding countryside.

T-Mobile designed the mast and associated equipment and fencing to minimise its visual impact on the setting of the Roman Wall.

The company also claimed it had investigated eight alternative sites in a bid to plug a gap in mobile phone coverage in the area, all of which were either unsuitable or unavailable.

In her decision letter, Ms Fabian says the mast would be built on the highest point of a rising field and would be clearly visible from some distance away, including on the Military Road and two public footpaths.

She says it would also impact on the setting of the Roman Wall and has been unable to find the `very special circumstances' required to allow a mast to be built in such a sensitive area.

She feels T-Mobile has not held sufficient discussions on the possibility of sharing a nearby pylon on which fellow operator O2 already has equipment.

Last night Coun Peter Jackson, who represents Heddon-on-the-Wall on both Castle Morpeth Borough and Northumberland County Councils, said: "This is such a sensitive location, next to a world heritage site, that people expected it would be protected by planning policy. We are pleased to see these policies working and doing what they are supposed to do, preserving the open countryside."

Precedent set

Anti-wind farm campaigners last night pointed to the Government inspector's refusal of the 50ft phone mast, arguing the same principles should underpin any decision on bids to build turbines in similarly sensitive areas.

The Journal revealed recently how Frank and Clare Dakin turned down a potential £6m in income from a wind farm development on their land because of the effect it would have on the local community and the surrounding landscape at Duddo near Berwick - including the ancient Duddo Five Stones and the Duddo Tower.

A spokesman for Moorsyde Action Group, which is fighting plans for 10 turbines west of Berwick, said: "This will raise some interesting questions about Plenmeller, where the developer is planning up to 24 turbines in plain sight of Hadrian's Wall. Here in North Northumberland, we have a raft of applications for dozens of turbines. At the same time, we have an historic landscape which must also be protected."

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