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Battle Lines Drawn Over New 5G Mast in Rural Northumberland UK UPDATE

Wednesday, July 6th, 2022 (5:36 pm) - Score 2,472
vodafone mast and engineer

Politicians in rural Northumberland (England) have criticised a plan by Clarke Telecom, which represents Cornerstone (O2 and Vodafone), to deploy a new 25-metre-high mobile mast on land behind Addycombe Farm in Rothbury because it’s situated near to the Grade I listed Park and Gardens, and Cragside House.

The Government are currently in the process of working to update the existing rules – primarily centred around Permitted Development (PD) rights – in order to make it easier for mobile network operators to deploy new and taller infrastructure (here).

Such changes are often seen by operators as being essential in order to help support the £1bn industry led Shared Rural Network project (inc. £500m of public investment), which aims to extend geographic 4G coverage to 95% of the UK by the end of 2025 (this will also aid future 5G coverage).

However, the situation in Rothbury highlights why finding the right balance over such issues can be difficult, particularly in terms of getting local politicians on your side.

Steven Bridgett, County Councillor for the Rothbury Division, said:

“There are very few Registered Parks and Gardens registered at Grade I and this reflects the designation’s considerable national significance to English landscape design.

The impact of this proposal upon this significance needs to be assessed by the applicant before this application can be determined. 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.

Of course, I am sure, much of this could very well be mitigated with an application that is designed in a more sensitive manner, takes into account its location and not least, has backup generation and fuel storage to ensure that the mast can operate in the event of a power cut. I did suggest this at the pre-consultation stage but it seems to have been blissfully ignored by the applicant and I am sure would go a long way to mitigating the concerns held by residents regarding this current proposal.

It would also support the emerging council report into Storm Arwen, the lessons from that event and how we cannot continue to have telecoms masts that fail in the event of a power cut and leave residents with no means of emergency communication.

As a community, we are more than willing to work with the applicant to achieve their objectives and I personally have no objection to better mobile telecoms whether it be in the form of 2G, 3G, 4G or 5G but working with one and other is a two-way street and thus far it would seem the applicant is completely unwilling to consider any suggestions.”

The issue around the lack of backup power for the new site has also, in a rare move, been raised by the Civil Contingencies Team at Northumberland County Council. However, should the mast be approved, it would not only result in improved 2G, 3G and 4G coverage, but also deliver the first 5G (ultrafast mobile broadband) signal to Rothbury; that would mark a significant improvement for locals.

Details of the specific application can be found by searching for the reference 22/02061/MAST on the council’s planning pages. Applications such as this are required under law to be determined within 56 days of the planning authority receiving them.

The council is currently attempting to negotiate with the applicant the need for backup generation as a form of community benefit that could potentially outweigh any impact on its proximity to the Historic Parkland, Gardens and House at Cragside. We have requested a comment from Clarke Telecom and will report back when they respond.

UPDATE 8th July 2022

We’ve had a response from Cornerstone.

A Cornerstone spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Cornerstone understand that our mobile infrastructure impacts communities. For this reason, we give great consideration to minimising the visual impact in our designs. We aim to ensure they blend into the area as much as is possible while enabling quality digital connectivity to the communities we serve.

In this case the existing trees will form a backdrop for the development at land close to Hillside Road and as a result we have concluded that the telecommunications infrastructure will not impact significantly on the historical park and buildings locally.

In addition, we have agreed to commission a heritage statement to formally assess any impact from the telecommunications equipment on the local historical sites. The development will provide enhanced 2G, 3G and 4G services to the Rothbury area and is designed so that 5G services can be provided in the future if required.

We appreciate the need to provide generators for some of our base stations to ensure resilience in our network services, we are looking into this for the proposed site at Rothbury.”

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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22 Responses
  1. Mark says:

    Tried here numerous times, a mast would benefit over 4000 people, would of been hidden by Farm buildings, sadly the Council are Anti mast so coverage will never be improved. The SRN is pie in the sky!


    1. FibreBubble says:

      Must be unusual farm buildings that hide a 20m lattice mast.

    2. Optimist says:

      “… sadly the Council are Anti mast so coverage will never be improved.”

      Then vote in a different set of councillors!

    3. Mark Jackson says:

      “Then vote in a different set of councillors!”

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen councillors battling local elections on the line of whether they’d approve a specific mast application, so this isn’t necessarily a solution. The time gaps between elections also make it ineffective as a tool for solving such specific challenges.

    4. Optimist says:

      @Mark Jackson says:

      “I don’t think I’ve ever seen councillors battling local elections on the line of whether they’d approve a specific mast application, so this isn’t necessarily a solution.”

      But you can put up candidates on a manifesto of, say, improving the connectivity and citing applications which you think ought to have been approved.

      There is no deposit to lose in local elections, turnout is often low and there can be surprising results.

      “The time gaps between elections also make it ineffective as a tool for solving such specific challenges.”

      All the more reason to challenge the status quo ASAP, unless you want to be stuck in a connectivity backwater for the rest of eternity.

  2. Mark says:

    Farm buildings at least 8 metres tall and surrounded by taller mature trees, don’t tell a Nimby? Cotswold district council approve taller Masts in AONB, but Stroud is a weird hippy council with Green excuses.

  3. Mark says:

    @Optimist, Really do you know Stroud? Headquarters of Extinction rebellion! And Anti mast movement. I think you’ll find the Council is very alternative, No new 5G masts have been approved in many areas too!

    1. Optimist says:

      Well there’s no point in grumbling about the council blocking masts, folks who want connectivity need to put their heads above the parapet and stand as pro-mast candidates at the next set of local elections. You might win! And yes I do know Stroud – my late brother lived nearby.

  4. Ben says:

    No doubt these same groups will complain that their mobile phones don’t work at home, and complain that they’re being “left behind”.

    Sadly you can’t have it both ways.

  5. Phil says:

    The larger question is when is enough enough? We can’t go on indefinitely trying to sell the same technology again and again and replacing things so soon. There is only so many resources on the planet, why do we need yet another mobile protocol so soon. The answer of course is we don’t, it is simply about making money. When I was child we didn’t have mobile phones or the Internet and we managed just fine, and quality of life was arguably better. Now tech firms have got billions of young and older people addicted to their devices, they can’t put them down. I’m at the gym and I can look around and sometimes you can’t spot a single person NOT wasting time on their devices. They might be at the gym, but actually they don’t do very much at all, it’s all spent on their phones. When do people get to switch off? Is life just about constantly comparing yourself to other people on facebook and Instagram and needing to do that faster and in more places on more expensive devices.

    1. Mark says:

      I think quite a few myself included just want to make and recieve calls for personal and business, perhaps your unaware that some populated areas of the UK have no decent 2G coverage, there’s quite an opposition to masts in some areas. We’ve even kept the Telephone boxes, with instances a mobile emergency call wouldn’t work.

    2. Ben says:

      Based on the network checkers for O2 and Vodafone, it appears that the farm is on the edge of existing phone signal. My expectation is that this mast is primarily to improve 2G / 4G signal, but if the networks want to build a new mast then it doesn’t make sense _not_ to make it 5G-capable (as you say, limited resources…).

    3. Phil says:

      @Mark, but for some people living without being surrounded by mobile phone masks is also important, especially in the countryside. I’m sure you would be first to complain if your neighbours put up a building that blocked out a lot of your light, they might argue they just wanted an extra bedroom, but their wants is your detriment.

      I’m in a populated area with a rubbish phone signal that can’t be relied upon inside or outside the house, but I solve that using Wi-Fi calling.

      For many people, having a mobile signal is not the be all and end all, many would rather enjoy being outdoors and enjoy uninterrupted views of the countryside.

      Don’t get me wrong I love my technology, but I’d rather be without a phone signal than feel like I’ve forced some ugly looking phone mast onto people, as I to also like enjoying the great outdoors and appreciate how ugly phone masts are. I can see it from both sides.

    4. phoenixw says:

      “why do we need yet another mobile protocol so soon”

      Because the consumption of data is evergrowing and capacity needs to keep up. The only way to do this is give access to more radio frequencies and better ways of using those radio frequencies efficiently.

      “When I was child we didn’t have mobile phones or the Internet and we managed just fine”

      Well now we have mobile phones and the internet and it’s core to most of our lives. Whether it’s work, entertainment, social or transferring a lot of mundane data that’s needed for society to function efficiently. The cat is out of the bag, the worms are out of the can, automation and connectivity is ever-increasing and wishing it wouldn’t is not going to stop it from happening!

    5. 125us says:

      People live in these areas. Without access to modern comms they can’t run a business, file tax returns, get cheap car or home insurance, shop without having access to a car, or access entertainment or stay in touch with family and friends.

      At previous points in history we’ve done without public transport, the NHS, state schools, cars, electricity and medicine. Society progresses, the tools we use change.

      Towns and villages without access to modern comms will wither and die as the young move away to places that do.

  6. Mark says:

    @Optimist that’s a ridiculous statement, doesn’t matter if you got elected there’s still many councillors who are against, the vocal minority have power, this is national infrastructure we shouldn’t be opposing in areas where its needed. The SRN was supposed to sort this nonsense out but like MIP will falter

    1. Optimist says:

      “the vocal minority have power” – of course they do if no-one is prepared to challenge them!

  7. Mark says:

    @Phil. What good is wifi calling if I’m around the area?. Strange of the council allowed a 25 metre mast at Miserden just ip the road in a AONB and Conservation area in full view for miles around, bit object to everything along this valley, something fishy going on,

  8. Mark says:

    @Optimist, the Vocal minority are the Landowners too, can’t build anything without them being on board. You just need to face facts, your not going to beat the Cotswolds Nimby in this area, just for your information the last farmer got a visit at 10pm at night by about 20 people, who harassed him and called him a murderer if it was built due to radiation and their house values would plummet.

    1. Optimist says:

      OK Mark, have it your own way – let the NIMBYs win, be content to live without modern telecommunications.

  9. Mark says:

    @Optimist do really think that I orva fewvothers can make a difference like I said Landowners won’t allow a mast to be built on their land now, all the Parish Councillors object and the District Councill all objected some applications here have had 700 letters of objection. Numerous masts have been rejected here, try googling Uley mastvor Cashes Green masts and others all rejected, there isn’t the support the councillors are voted in, do really think a few of us can change this, sadly your disillusioned. Just because your area might be ok, doesn’t mean everywhere is, and it seems people will fight to stop masts, LED streetlights Roadsigns, the colour and thickness of double yellow lines, even green broadband cabinets, yes we had two stopped because they would be detrimental to a Conservation area.

  10. Jimbo says:

    My local parish council, opposed a local mast 4 years ago,and said it not needed for the area,and sticks out of place

    Then the local parish councillor made the front page headlines-local community complain about mobile phone reception

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