Town council rejects mobile phone mast plans

TOWN councillors in Bradford on Avon have voted to reject plans by developer Galliford Try to build a 15-metre tall mobile phone mast.

The Leicestershire-based firm has re-submitted proposals for a phone mast and associated base station equipment on land at the BT telephone exchange in Masons Lane.

The pre-planning submission is a re-design of the original scheme published in January. Galliford Try’s clients, Vodafone and O2, say they need to improve their mobile phone signal coverage in the town.

Ilana Clark, spokesperson for CTIL, which is handling Galliford Try’s application, said:

“We submitted a proposal for a mobile phone base station at the BT Telephone Exchange. However, due to changes in the tree line local to the site and comments from local residents, we decided to withdraw the planning application, re-design the site to take account of the comments received and then submit a new planning application. We have now submitted this modified application and await the local planning authority’s decision.”

Bradford on Avon’s planning and environment committee was told on Tuesday there were still “significant” objections by local residents to the scheme. They say there is risk from the electro-magnetic frequencies and non-ionised radiation likely to be emitted from the mast.

Protestors say the mast would present a health hazard to people living nearby and children at the Christchurch Primary School and would impact on the conservation area, tourism and the navigation systems of bats and birds.

Local resident Rosemary Brown said:

“The impact on the conservation area will be huge. This ghastly mast does not do anything for anybody and will be detrimental in every respect.”

If Galliford Try gained planning approval, it would merely be as a “Trojan horse” for further development, said another resident, Caroline Brown.

“If this application goes ahead, in a year’s time there will be a different mast. What you see now is not what you will get. It will be bigger and uglier and there will be no way of getting rid of it.”

Sonia Leith questioned whether the company had properly assessed alternative sites other than pubs and churches in the town. “What we need is an independent assessment of the viability of alternative sites.”

Keith Leyland warned officials and councillors could be accountable for their decision if they voted to approve the application, adding:

“Bradford on Avon is a small town surrounded by acres of open countryside. Why can’t another site be selected.”

Feona Baker said “emotional and occasionally inaccurate” comments would not cut any ice with Galliford Try, who would produce reports to disprove them.

“Instead, you should hit Galliford Try where it hurts, in the pocket”, she said. “Ask them to prove the financial viability as best value for money for their shareholders, by comparing a cost for erecting a new mast rather than upgrading.”

Alex Kay, chair of the town’s planning and environment committee, said they had received “no response” from Galliford Try to their letter asking the company to give more details about its renewed proposal.

Voting to refuse the application, councillors criticised the company for its failure to respond to its letter sent on July 21.

They said the proposed mast was too close to the town’s conservation area and would have a potential impact on protected species, particularly bats and birds such as swallows and swifts.

They said the company had not “adequately” assessed alternative sites and had not provided any explanation of why they could not upgrade the existing mast to provide better signal coverage.

Residents have until August 25 to make comments or representations before the consultation process ends. Wiltshire Council is likely to make a decision on the application in September.

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