Brentwood phone mast application rejected

A planning inspector has indicated that a phone mast would be well placed on top of Brentwood’s multi storey car park – while rejecting an application for a mast near a Grade II listed former mental health hospital.

Residents have been struggling with poor service after masts for the four national mobile network operators – Vodafone, O2, EE and Three – were removed in June 2020 from the top of Ewing House on Kings Road.

Mobile phone operators had known for almost two years that the masts would be taken down. An emergency mast was put up near Brentwood Station when the masts were removed but it did not provide sufficient coverage. People living as far away as Hartswood Road have reported a drop-off in signal.

Brentwood Borough Council accepts that criticism is being levelled at the authority but says the fault lies with mobile phone operators.

A planning inspectorate has now rejected an appeal against a decision made by Brentwood Borough Council for a 20 metre phone mast for 02 and Vodafone on land next to the Nightingale Centre, Pastoral Way, on the grounds that it would harm the visual impact of the Grade II listed former mental hospital – now known as The Galleries.

Planning Inspector Rachael Bartlett said: “There is no dispute that a new site is required in this area to replace the former roof top site at Ewing House in Brentwood.

“However, it is also necessary to consider whether or not this need could be met by an alternative site, which would result in less harm.”

She has indicated that a mast given permission at appeal on top of the multi storey would be better all round.

She added: “The option of placing the equipment on the roof of the multi storey car park is available and that would, in my view, be much less harmful in terms of siting and appearance than the proposed new ground based equipment.

“Moreover, this single roof top site would be capable of providing the required level of coverage, without relying upon a second site.”

A message from O2 on Monday (June 28) said: “We’re continuing to talk to the local authorities to find a new mast site, however this is likely to take some time.

“We’re making progress but we’re not quite there yet. Please bear with us, We’ll update you again by Friday, July 16 2021.”

Structural tests – in order for Brentwood Council to approve a risk assessment for temporary EE and Three masts on Masefield Court – failed, meaning that plans have had to be redrawn.

The most recent post from EE updating customers in May read: “As part of the work to build our new mobile site in the area, we completed mandatory health and safety structural surveys prior to beginning construction on the roof.

“Unfortunately, the area of the roof designated for our site did not pass the survey, meaning that it would be unsafe for us to build at this location with its current design.

“We have been working with the council and have a final meeting this week to agree on a new site design  to ensure the site can pass the structural survey.

“Provided this is approved, we will schedule a new survey date. Barring any unforeseen delays, we expect the mast to be on air by the end of June.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter