Row over 15-metre high phone mast built in the middle of village after ‘planning system error’

DM1932908a.jpg. Villagers in West Marden are furious that a telephone mast has been constructed in the middle of their village. Ranjit V, left and Martin Edney. Photo by Derek Martin Photography. SUS-190326-232224008
DM1932908a.jpg. Villagers in West Marden are furious that a telephone mast has been constructed in the middle of their village. Ranjit V, left and Martin Edney. Photo by Derek Martin Photography. SUS-190326-232224008

Residents in West Marden are fighting to have a 15 metre high telephone mast moved after a planning technicality allowed it to be built in the middle of their village.

Telefonica applied for permission to erect the mast and was told by the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) that it would be harmful to the area due to ‘significant concerns’ about its height.

DM1932897a.jpg. Villagers in West Marden are furious that a telephone mast has been constructed in the middle of their village. Ranjit V, left and Martin Edney. Photo by Derek Martin Photography. SUS-190326-232214008

DM1932897a.jpg. Villagers in West Marden are furious that a telephone mast has been constructed in the middle of their village. Ranjit V, left and Martin Edney. Photo by Derek Martin Photography. SUS-190326-232214008

But a decision was issued a day late by the planning authority, allowing the communications company ‘deemed consent’ to put up the structure by default.

Compton parish councillor Ranjit Verghese said residents would welcome a phone mast for better signal but the location was inappropriate and he was concerned.

He said: “We just don’t want it here, it’s an absolute eyesore.

“There’s a national accord set up between the mobile operators’ association and national parks and this flies completely in the face of that.”

He said the council had put forward two alternative sites for the company to consider, one of which would be on the site used to create mobile phone coverage for emergency service calls half a mile away.

Tim Slaney, director of planning for the SDNPA, said it had been given assurances from Telefonica that no further work would take place while discussions continued over the mast, which is not operational.

He said: “It is disappointing that Telefonica have chosen to carry out this work, given that positive discussions to find an alternative location and/or revise the design for the mast were under way.

“We recognise that by the letter of the law the operators are able to erect the mast but we were close to securing a more suitable scheme and this sort of action is both unfortunate and damaging.”

The national park authority has said the decision notice being issued a day late after the 56-day deadline was due to a system error but pre-application advice to Telefonica had raised concerns over the mast’s appearance in a ‘sensitive’ area.

A spokesperson for CTIL, a contractor for Telefonica involved in the construction of the mast, said the deemed consent was now valid for five years and could be used by any operator.

She said the company had ‘worked closely’ with the local community in West Marden and had stopped any further building work while it investigated the alterative locations suggested.