Ongoing phone mast issue continues to cause reception problems in parts of Brentwood

Mobile phone coverage is yet to return to a key area of Brentwood almost a year after phone masts were removed.

It is possible that some may be restored by the end of June for customers reliant on coverage from EE and Three – but a solution is yet to be found for customers of O2 and Vodafone.

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. The council remains in discussion for a temporary mast for Vodafone and O2 customers on Pastoral Way.

A recent post from O2 read: “We’ve had to remove a mast near you.

“We’ve upgraded other masts nearby to help boost the network, and we’re sorry if you’re still having signal issues.

“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, June 25.”

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..

The mobile network concluded by saying it will keep customers updated.

All four operators are yet to receive planning permission for permanent masts in the area.

An application from Vodafone/O2 to Brentwood Borough Council in December 2019 for a mast on Pastoral Way and Coptfold Road was refused in January 2020 because of its “unacceptable siting and appearance”.

A revised prior notification application for installation of telecommunications apparatus on Coptfold Road by Vodafone/O2 was refused again in June 2020.

An application for a permanent mast at Masefield Court from EE and Three was also refused July 2020 for its “unacceptable siting and appearance”.

02 customer Paul Downie said: “We are living with the consequences of the council and operators not being able to agree.

“In retrospect the council should have not given permission for  the removal of the masts in the first place. It has been nearly  a year since they were taken down and nothing has changed.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter