HIGHTOWN residents have united to thank Sefton Council for turning down a controversial plan to erect a telephone mast close to their village green.
Although a telecommunications company are still eager to increase cell reception in the area and are exploring other options nearby, a prominent campaign to stop a mast being built directly in the centre of the village has been hailed a success.
Sefton Council Planning inspectors announced a full rejection of proposals by CTIL Communications to erect a new telephone mast near the village green – despite the plans already being deferred by the firm after listening to concerns from residents who were concerned about both the safety and visual implications of a new mast in the centre of the village.
A spokesperson for CTIL said they were disappointed with the latest decision but vowed to return to Hightown soon with a new plan of action.
They said: “Vodafone and O2 customers expect to be able to use their mobiles and devices where they live, work and travel.
“Base stations are low powered devices which only cover approximately half a mile in radius and therefore we have to put base stations close to our customers.
From page 1
“Vodafone and O2 identified that they needed to improve coverage to their customers in the Hightown area and proposed a base station at the Hightown telephone exchange.
“We were disappointed that the planning application for this site was rejected.
“However, we have been working closely with the local community to identify an alternative location for a mobile phone base station in the local area - the alternative site thought to be most mutually acceptable is Hightown Club. We are presently assessing this site for suitability.”
Local campaigner Vikki Latchford told the Champion: “At a meeting at the beginning of January the plans were deferred while they looked at alternative sites but there was still a possibility that they were going to use the BT Exchange site.
“That is why that site was rejected.
“This was the outcome we wanted as our issue was the location - we all know we need a better phone signal in Hightown but we didn't want it right in the centre next to people's homes!
“We are happy they have seen sense and will now put it somewhere more suitable for everyone.”
A spokesperson for Hightown Heritage said: “It was good to see that the planning councillors recognised the blatant disregard for the residents and the permanent impact it would have on one of our villages.
“The BT exchange site on Hightown’s protected-status village green has been coveted for many years by telecom companies who have been desperate to put a mast there.”
The spokesperson claimed: “The ‘consideration of the other sites was a complete façade and seem to have been selected by playing pin the tail on the donkey!’
“Of the sites apparently ‘considered’ by CTIL, one is in a field on the outskirts of the village which is further than a site the village residents suggested; one is on the pavement in front of the village shops - again on the protected status village green, and another of the sites is at the railway station under the overhead power lines!
“To compound this facade there is a clear requirement under the National Planning Policy Framework for operators to reuse infrastructure.
“There is an existing mast at the edge of Hightown in Orrell Hill Wood which should be upgraded rather than a new second mast site being installed.
“This existing mast is owned by BT/EE who instead chose to lease part of their site in the village centre to allow a second mast to be erected.
“This is in direct contravention of their own code of best practice and the national planning policy framework.”