PLANS to erect a telecommunications mast in an Eastbury beauty spot have been granted planning permission.
Members of West Berkshire Council’s western area planning committee voted unanimously in favour of the controversial project on Wednesday last week.
The 20m-high lattice tower with five antennas and dishes will be sited on land at Coldborough Hill.
The proposed development also includes installation of six equipment cabinets, 2.2m-high fencing and a new access lane.
Gordon Lundie and Graham Jones (both Con, Lambourn) organised a site visit ahead of the meeting.
The new mobile base station will be built as part of the Government’s Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP).
The MIP is a Government-funded initiative to extend mobile coverage over complete ‘not spot’ areas – that is, where there is no mobile coverage from any mobile network operator.
Saleem Shamash, for the applicant, told the meeting: “It’s a regrettable feature of this technology that it requires tall structures, so there will be some impact.”
In response to a query from Adrian Edwards (Con, Falkland), Mr Shamash said the Membury mast could not be used instead because it was too distant.
And he added: “The pace of change is frankly phenomenal and to be left behind will be an increasing problem for such communities. This area is a complete ‘not spot’.”
The committee heard that planners received several letters of objection from local residents, citing the visual impact on the landscape of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
But Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley) pointed out that 10 letters in support of the project had also been received and proposed that the application be granted.
Jeff Beck (Con, Clay Hill), agreed: “Let’s embrace the future for the sake of our children.”
Paul Hewer (Con, Hungerford) said: “I’m familiar with the area, spending lots of my working life in and around the Lambourn and Eastbury area. Having listened to the opinion of residents, I feel this can only be a good thing.”
Lambourn Parish Council formally supported the application and council planning officer Simon Till told members they had to weigh up the impact on the AONB against the “significant benefit to local residents and businesses in the area”.
He conceded that the mast would be “visible from a number of local viewpoints” but added: “It will mainly be apparent from nearby views.”
Mrs Cole’s motion in favour of granting planning permission was passed without a single dissenting vote.