Yet another application lodged for 5G mast

POLE POSITION: The proposed location for the new mast

NEW plans for a 5G mast in Tunbridge Wells have been lodged with the Borough Council, despite previous resistance to other applications by both residents and councillors.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) has received plans for a 15m-high mast with equipment cabinets, to be located on the pavement of St John’s Road, adjacent to Southfields Park.

This is the latest attempt by telecoms company CK Hutchison Networks to install the pole. The previous two applications were met with a flood of complaints from residents, and both plans were rejected by the Planning Committee.

In January, plans for a 17m-high mast, also on St John’s Road (outside Henrietta Court) were submitted to TWBC, but received a fierce backlash from residents who complained about the mast’s safety and the visual impact on the area.

The plans were so controversial that they amassed almost 40 comments on the application site and sparked an online petition, which gained 304 signatures from St John’s residents.

On February 17, TWBC refused the application, saying that the development would “appear unduly prominent” and have an “unacceptable visual impact” on the surrounding area.

TWBC received a similar application in March for a 15m-high ‘slimline’ mast to be erected on the corner of Cleveland Road and Sandrock Road, but that was also hit by a wall of objections over the technology’s safety and its location to a conservation area.

The planning documents claim the mast ‘will assimilate well into the immediate street scene and not be detrimental’. They also suggest that the location is the ‘best available compromise between extending 5G service across the target coverage hole’ and have restricted the mast and cabinet to the ‘minimum height which is capable of providing the required essential coverage’.

CK Hutchison, which operates the UK mobile network Three, said: “The proposed installation supports the UK Government digital connectivity vision and provides a basis for support from the local planning authority to speed up the digital infrastructure roll-out set by ministers on August 27, 2020.

“Such development will facilitate educational benefits, providing access to vital services, improving communications with the associated commercial benefits for local businesses, enabling e-commerce and working from home as well as enjoying access to social media and gaming for leisure time activities.”

Many historical objections relate to scepticism around the technology’s effects on health and the radiation it emits.

However, the telecoms operator said the mast abides by all laws, including the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which means there is “no convincing evidence of adverse health effects at exposure below the guideline levels”.

A spokesperson for CK Hutchison told the Times in January: “5G rollout is vital for the residents and businesses of Tunbridge Wells. We want to offer the community a reliable network experience, and this site will be critical in making that happen.

“Masts need to be situated where people will be using the service and, in many cases, in precise locations to ensure the widest breadth of coverage.

“We carry out extensive searches and evaluate a wide range of options before submitting any planning applications.

“We are aware that there have been some concerns raised, however, from a health and safety perspective, 5G deployment is no different from any other mobile technology.

“All generations of mobile technology used by Three comply with guidelines to ensure that no harmful levels of radiation are emitted.

“As a responsible company, we take our obligation to run a safe network very seriously, and actively work to ensure that our network remains compliant with international guidelines.”

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