Custodians of the Yorkshire Dales National Park have approved a plan to site a 25-metre mobile phone tower beside popular walking trail after concluding visitors and residents’ needs should be paramount over park authority’s first purpose, to protect the landscapes.
Cornerstone’s proposal to also site several satellite dishes beside the path leading to the summit of Buckden Pike was approved after a majority of members agreed it was inconceivable that residents of Buckden and Hubberholme have no mobile coverage later this year when their 3G mast was removed.
Alongside 4G connectivity, the area will become one of several similar schemes in the national park which will also see the choice of operators extended to Vodafone, Telefonica and Three, which has been welcomed by some residents and local businesses.
A meeting of the park authority’s planning committee at its base in Bainbridge heard the 25m-high lattice-style mast would be located on a shelf below the popular peak as it would require a “line of sight” to provide services to mobile users.
Projections have indicated the mast would be visible across a wide area, including the other side of the valley, towards Hubberholme and from Langstrothdale.
The meeting heard proposals for other mobile masts had been rejected due to the harm they did to landscapes and communities and that walkers on many routes would walk within 10m of the mast.
Member Mark Corner told the meeting the authority’s purpose to conserve the landscape “trumped” its socio-economic duty to visitors and residents.
He questioned why a proposal for a mast at Ribblehead, one of the most visited areas of the national park, had been rejected and suggested approving the Buckden proposal could set a precedent, leading to “a whole national park zig-zagged with 25m masts”.
One resident told the meeting numerous residents were opposed to the scheme due to its detrimental impact on the landscape, leading to “a significant character change” and thereby harming tourism.
He questioned the need for the 25m-high structure, saying a five or ten-metre high mast could provide the necessary coverage in areas with residents.
However, Wensleydale farmer Allen Kirkbride responded saying visitors walking around villages “with their mobiles in the air trying to get a signal” did little for tourism either.
Member Yvonne Peacock, who represents the Upper Dales area on North Yorkshire Council, said good mobile coverage was needed by everybody in society and was particularly important in isolated places.
She added: “I understand how it looks, yes, but it’s surprising how you get used to something and even visitors don’t always see something that’s different.”
The park authority’s longest serving member, Robert Heseltine, said the decision came down to if rural residents “should be denied what those in other areas enjoy”.
He said reducing the mast’s height would also cut the service it could provide.
Mr Heseltine said in objecting to the mast landowner the National Trust had shown “a surprising lack of empathy towards the reasonable needs of the residents of the parish of Buckden”.
He then compared those opposing the mast to Luddites during the Industrial Revolution.
Mr Heseltine said: “We do have of course have a statutory duty to protect the countryside, but our duty towards the inhabitants of these dales is of paramount importance.”