Support for Boxford and other phone signal plans urged by minister
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Culture minister Ed Vaizey has urged vocal support for new phone masts in Suffolk as time ticks on a multi-million pound fund to get to the hardest to reach areas.
Plans have been submitted for new infrastructure to improve phone signal in Boxford on land at Sherbourne House Farm, Edwardstone.
But in a letter updating local MP James Cartlidge on where mobile phone signal could be improved in his constituency, the minister revealed that a plan near Hartest had been rejected because the proposal was not in keeping with the area and a plan for Bildeston was withdrawn because of a judicial review.
Official are looking to acquire land in Assington Green and a new plan for Bildeston is likely to be unveiled next month.
The Mobile Infrastructure Programme was set up in 2012 to get to the hardest to reach areas under the last Government. Mr Vaizey said that his department was working at building enough support within the community for a mast, “ensuring that a landowner is happy to host a mast on their land and crucially that there is enough support from the community to do so”.
“This support needs to be obtained before a site can be designed for the mast and prior to submitting a planning application,” he said.
But he warned that the Mobile Infrastructure Programme (MIP) was due to end in March 2016, meaning that he could not absolutely guarantee that the projects would be delivered.
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“If the mast sites can progress, then it is likely that the masts would be built and live towards the end of March 2016. This is because of the time needed to apply and gain planning permission.”
“Any vocal support that can be given to this work to help continue to show support amongst constituents of the project is very welcome,” he added.
Mr Cartlidge said: “I recently raised at Prime Minister’s Questions three of our worst mobile phone not spots, including Boxford. I am pleased that we already have further progress with confirmation that a formal planning application has gone into Babergh for Boxford and I hope that the other proposed masts can follow in due course. As the Prime Minister himself stressed in answer to my question, it is important that communities support these applications if they want to have better mobile signal. Of course, the site must be acceptable to the community and the application will be carefully considered by planning officers, but there is now the realistic prospect of better mobile signal in one of our main not spots within a time frame of less than a year”.
He has met the main mobile phone providers in Westminster to discuss how they plan to improve signal in the constituency and he is optimistic that other technological changes will bring better signal alongside the new masts, later in the year.