Plans for 35-metre 4G mobile phone mast near Yorkshire Dales town of Masham set to be refused

Plans to construct a 35m-tall communications tower near Masham to boost 4G coverage in rural areas has been recommended for refusal ahead of a meeting next week.

Councillors on Skipton & Ripon’s planning committee will meet on Tuesday to consider an application from mobile infrastructure provider Cornerstone to build the tower in Ox Close Plantation, Healey.

However, because the plantation sits within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which has strict planning laws, a council officer has recommended the application is refused as “great weight must be given to conserving and enhancing the landscape and scenic beauty” of the AONB.

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According to a report that has gone before councillors, existing 4G coverage is “spasmodic” in the area serving Fearby, the hamlet of Leighton and part of the Healey and Ilton villages. Elsewhere, only areas of higher ground can receive a signal.

Masham Town SquareMasham Town Square
Masham Town Square

If the tower is built, it would mean a 4G signal could be received from the Vodafone, Virgin Media-O2 and 3 networks to most of the surrounding area.

The application is part of the Shared Rural Network venture, which is a £1bn drive between government and major mobile network operators to improve the UK’s digital connectivity.

By 2025, the venture is expected to achieve 4G coverage in 95% of the UK.

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One nearby resident has submitted a letter of support to the application saying they experience no mobile signal due to the landscape and are too far from the telephone exchange to ever benefit from any landline broadband.

It has also been supported by Fearby, Healey And District Parish Council.

Ox Close Plantation lies on the north-west side of the Upper Pott Beck valley, where it is occupied by Leighton Reservoir.

The journey from Masham to Lofthouse descends to pass around the reservoir before climbing south-west with visitors experiencing expansive views.

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Cornerstone says the tower must to be 35m so signal won’t be blocked by the trees but the planning officer said it would result in harm to visitors.

It said: “The height of the tower above the plantation in which it is to be situated is excessive and does cause undue harm to the AONB and the amenity of visitors. The proposed development would introduce an incongruous feature into an unspoilt landscape creating an unacceptable level of harm to the landscape character of the Nidderdale AONB.”

Councillors will meet in Skipton on Tuesday afternoon to consider the plans.