17
Jun
2005

PHONE FIRM RAPPED OVER EXMOOR MAST

This is Devon

18:00 - 16 June 2005

An international mobile phone company has been rapped for flouting planning restrictions on Exmoor. Exmoor National Park Authority members sent a clear message to MM02 after the company raised the height of a mast at Beacon Down Quarry, Parracombe, to 30m.

Permission had been given in 2002 for a 20m mast for use in the Airwave police mobile communications system.

In October 2003, new agents acting on behalf of MM02 told the authority the mast was not good enough and in order to provide adequate coverage they needed to raise it to 29m.

An authority spokesman said the agents were told the mast would be too high on the skyline and damaging to the landscape.

But in August a new mast was discovered in the quarry.

It was 31m above ground level and thicker that the previous mast.

Also, the mast's equipment cabinet was cream with a plastic-like finish, rather than the stone and slate construction required by the authority.

After questions by planning officers the MM02 agent said a mistake had been made when the quarry cliff face was measured.

They said a 20m mast did not reach the top of the quarry and so could not provide coverage.

A spokesman said: "Airwave's radio planning department have always requested that a 4.5m height mast above the top of the quarry would be required to provide the necessary coverage.

"Indeed the original application submitted and approved details a mast which protrudes above the highest point of the quarry by four metres, plus antenna."

Planning officers said the original drawings were not accurate.

They said suggestions had also been made for alternative ways of providing coverage.

A retrospective application for the new mast was refused by the authority's planning committee and enforcement action will be taken to remove the mast.

After the meeting head of planning Chris France said: "It is a pity that this company who had received planning permission for a 20m mast subsequently erected one 50% higher, hoping to get away with it.

"I hope members' decision to refuse permission for its retention will send a clear message."
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