Pledge to fight phone mast plan

By James HoreCONSERVATIONISTS have vowed to fight a plan to put up a mobile phone mast in a picturesque corner of East Anglia.Mobile phone company Orange wants to site a 15-metre mast near Dedham and the landscape made famous by the artist John Constable.

By James Hore

CONSERVATIONISTS have vowed to fight a plan to put up a mobile phone mast in a picturesque corner of East Anglia.

Mobile phone company Orange wants to site a 15-metre mast near Dedham and the landscape made famous by the artist John Constable.

Colchester Borough Council planning officers have made a conditional recommendation to councillors to approve the proposal - which would see the mast placed inside a synthetic dead tree to blend in with the surrounding area.


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But conservation group, the Dedham Vale Society, has pledged to protect the countryside near the proposed mast site and oppose the plan.

The mobile phone mast, together with cabinets housing electrical equipment, would be put up within a 20-metre by 12-metre fenced compound on land at Hill Farm, Long Road East, between Dedham Heath and Lawford.

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To get the go-ahead, the mast, equipment cabinets and fencing would all have to be finished in a dark colour and trees be planted around it.

The site near the famous Essex Way footpath and Dedham Vale, an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Orange said the mast was required to improve signal coverage in the area and added the needs of its customers had to be considered in the planning application process.

There have been previous unsuccessful applications to put a mobile phone mast in the Dedham area.

A spokesman for Colchester Borough Council has already warned it would only be a matter of time before an application for a mast in the area was successful.

He added it was not possible for councillors to operate a blanket objection to such proposals.

But Dedham Vale Society member Paul Gallifant claimed the design for the Orange mast was still not suitable.

“The point is that the proposed mast is almost on the inside of the AONB and is the most obvious place to put it because they need to get a clear signal for the people using phones on the trains,” he said.

“But I feel the AONB needs protecting and we should not accept masts in that area, regardless of what they look like.”

Mr Gallifant added even if the masts were to be improved in appearance, there would still be the problem caused by the visual impact of the equipment cabinets at the bottom of the mast.

Christopher Garnett, the borough councillor for Dedham and Langham, said: “I don't think a woodpecker would be fooled by it (the mast) for very long.

“The area now has a status that is almost the same as a National Park and a decision like this cannot be taken lightly.”

Mr Garnett added he would consider the policy relating to AONBs and borough planning before giving a definitive answer about possibility of the mast being sited there.

Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP for North Essex, said: “It would be very interesting to view one of these things and also to see what the views of residents are about them.

“It may well be the solution for improved safe communications without the intrusion of the masts in the protected area.”

A spokesman for Orange said: “The planning system is exercised to balance the needs of the community and individuals against the wider interests of society - in this case that includes the many users of the Orange network.”

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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