A spanner has been thrown in the works of an international telecoms giant hoping to extend and improve the 5G mobile phone network in part of Peterborough.
CK Hutchison Networks (UK) had hoped to instal a new 5G mast, 15m street pole and additional equipment cabinets in West Lake Avenue, Peterborough, but were refused permission by the city council.
The council’s decision has been upheld after CK Hutchinson lost an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.
“In this location, existing mast sites are not capable of supporting additional equipment compliment to extend coverage reach across the target area and prospective ‘in-fill’ mast sites are extremely limited,” the company told planners.
But the city council ruled last year that the proposal “by virtue of its siting and appearance, would unacceptably impact upon the visual character and appearance of the surrounding street scene and area”.
The proposed development is to be sited forward of the Hampton Vale Primary School and opposite a large area of public open space.
“There is no doubt this part of West Lake Avenue is a hub and focal point of the area,” planning officers concluded.
“At 15m in height the monopole would be significantly taller than the other vertical infrastructure in the surrounding area, i.e., street lamps and school, with it extending approximately 7.4m higher than the tallest structure existing.
“The monopole would therefore appear unacceptably tall and its appearance visually harmful to its surrounding context.
“It would appear disproportionately prominent in the street and in combination with the other street furniture result in a cluttered appearance in the local hub, detracting from the openness which currently characterises the street.
“Accordingly, the proposal due to its siting and appearance would result in unacceptable harm to the visual character, appearance and amenity of the surrounding area.”
The city council said that whilst they recognise there is a need to provide new 5G network coverage to the area “this does not outweigh the detrimental harm which will occur to the site and its immediate proximity from the siting and appearance of the mast, with associated infrastructure”.
That view has been supported by Mr I Dyer, the inspector who heard the appeal.
He said the appeal site lies within a grass verge which forms part of the public highway of West Lake Avenue, close to a zebra crossing where a greenway crosses the road.
The site lies within an open, paved area directly to the front of Hampton Vale Primary School, and close to a commercial hub containing shops and a community facility.
“The site therefore lies in an area that is suburban in appearance, with an open, spacious character that, due the convergence of several routes on the frontage of the school, forms a focal point for local people,” he said.
He said the proposed 15 metre monopole and associated cabinets would be located between two street lights, close to the zebra crossing.
“Because of their scale and distance from the site street trees in the vicinity would have negligible effect in screening the proposal,” he said. “Consequently, the monopole would be highly visible in the street scene.”
Mr Dyer added: “Whilst there are streetlights in close proximity, they are of a much slimmer design, and less than half the height of the proposed mast.
“The structure would be higher than any of the surrounding buildings and trees and would be much bulkier than any of the existing street furniture in the locality.
“The equipment would, therefore, be a highly visible, prominent, and incongruous feature that would be out of proportion with the surrounding scale of the buildings and street furniture.
“Its harmful visual impact would be readily perceived by some nearby residents, people passing along the road and greenway and persons visiting the school, nearby shops or parks.”
Mr Dyer noted colour choice was an option but said that whilst some may reduce the prominence of the proposed development to a limited degree, they would not successfully conceal its height, bulk, and incongruous presence in these suburban surroundings.
“I conclude that the proposal would result in significant harm to the character and appearance of the immediate area, and limited harm in wider views,” he said.
Mr Dyer said he also looked at whether CK Hutchison had explored the possibility of erecting antennas on an existing building, mast, or other structure.
He noted that the installation was required to fill a gap in 5G coverage in an area of residential and commercial uses surrounding the site, where access to digital services is poor.
But he also remarked that policy dictated that the number of telecommunications masts should be kept to a minimum, “consistent with the needs of consumers, the efficient operation of the network, and the provision of reasonable capacity for future expansion.
“It also encourages the use of existing masts, buildings, and other structures. However, it does recognise that new sites may be required for new 5G networks.”
Mr Dyer said he had been presented with a contention that the appeal site presents the only viable solution, bearing in mind technical requirements.
He said CK Hutchison’s evidence highlights six alternative sites within the target coverage area that have been considered “but the reasons given for discounting them are brief”.
Mr Dyer looked at these sites but “the evidence provided is not sufficient in detail for me to reasonably conclude that there are no more suitable sites for the installation.
“Consequently, the harm that the proposal would cause to the character and appearance of the area is not outweighed by the need for it to be sited as proposed”.
CK Hutchison Networks (UK) say they are in the process of supporting the UK Government’s Digital connectivity objective and providing a critical role in building the UK’s fastest mobile network to provide improved coverage and capacity, most notably in relation to 5G services.
“In this location, existing mast sites are not capable of supporting additional equipment compliment to extend coverage reach across the target area and prospective ‘in-fill’ mast sites are extremely limited,” it says.
“There is an acute need for a new base station to provide effective service coverage and in this case, the height of the proposed street pole is the minimum required to bring the benefits of 5G to this area.”
CK Hutchison Networks manages and operates 9,100 telecommunications sites of the mobile operator WindTre in the country.
It is a business unit of CK Hutchison. CK Hutchison Holding (HKG: 0001), aka Cheung Kong Holdings, has five core businesses – ports and related services, retail, infrastructure, energy, and telecommunications.
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