Plans to install an 18 metre tall mobile phone mast in a Blackpool conservation area have angered residents – with one labelling the equipment ‘street furniture from hell’.
The bid to place the pole on Whitegate Drive is one of 11 applications submitted to Blackpool Council since June for new mobile phone masts.
The masts will range from 12 metres to 20 metres in height with cabinets housing equipment at their base, and are part of a national government drive to boost advanced 5G mobile phone and internet coverage.
But community groups claim the Whitegate Drive proposal will be an eyesore, and are warning other residents in the town about the spread of the new masts.
Dave Blacker, chairman of the Talbot ward PACT (police and community together), said: “It is street furniture from hell – it is ugly.
“The residents and PACT members are up in arms and horrified this could be put up in a conservation area. We’re not saying we don’t want these masts in Blackpool, but they have to think about where they are putting them.”
If it gets the go ahead, the mast will be right outside the Dinners Ready diner owned by Jennifer Duffy.
She said: “I’ve been here 25 years. This is a conservation area which meant I wasn’t allowed by the council to put shutters up – but this mast and the boxes with it will be a real eyesore.
“I’m also worried about it for health reasons, and because it will affect my business as it is right next to where I put my outdoor seating.”
Talbot ward councillors Mark Smith and Jane Hugo are also calling for a rethink.
Coun Smith said: “The cabinets and boxes are huge and it’s just not in keeping with the area. We think it should be sited in a more discreet location that will not impact directly on residents.
“We’re not against progress, but not at this location.”
The Whitegate Drive application is one of a number of sites CK Hutchison has applied for permission to use for its company Three UK, based in Reading, which is the fourth-largest mobile network operator in the UK.
A Three spokesperson said: “Access to 5G has a vital role to play in boosting local economies, helping residents and businesses get faster and more reliable network coverage.
“This is why we’re working with the local council in Blackpool to roll out the UK’s fastest 5G network so that we can keep everyone connected both now and in the future.
“While we try to keep mast sites as unobtrusive as possible, they do need to be situated near to 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 surveys to evaluate all the options. We then choose the option most likely to gain planning approval from the local council.
“This will include showing we have minimised the impact on residents and the locality.”
Earlier this year the council won a planning battle with Hutchison after it had sought to put a 15 metre tall phone mast in King Street, close to the Town Centre Conservation Area.
The council refused planning permission, which was upheld on appeal, because the mast would have harmed views of Blackpool Tower.
Some new masts have already been installed, including near B&M Bargains on Whitegate Drive.
But masts do not always need full planning permission as applicants may only need to seek ‘telecommunications prior approval’. This means the application is covered by national policy because it is deemed to be part of vital infrastructure.
With 11 submissions in the pipeline, Mr Blacker warned other communities could see masts “landing on their doorsteps”.
The applications, submitted mainly by either Hutchison or Preston based IX Wireless Ltd, for masts and cabinets since June are for:
Pathway to the side of 476 Lytham Road and Broadway
Pathway on Dinmore Avenue, opposite Progress Court
Side of 20 Huntley Avenue and Wilford Street
Side of 113 Powell Avenue and Pickmere Avenue
Side of 479 Central Drive
Pavement adjacent to 31 Whitegate Drive
Adjacent to Layton Library, Talbot Road
Site at 182 Park Road
Path opposite 81 and 83 Shaftsbury Avenue
Site opposite 230 to 250 Bristol Avenue
Site opposite front of 78 Westfield Road
In addition, Planning permission has been approved for an 18 metre mast on land next to the Number 4 and Free Masons Hotel on Layton Road.