Planning permission has been granted for a 5G mast in Coverdale despite opposition from some local residents.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s planning committee unanimously approved the installation of a 17m wooden utility pole with mobile communications antenna at West Scrafton in Coverdale.
The decision follows months of public meetings and debate across the national park over the health and environmental impact of Mobile Access North Yorkshire’s initiative to provide 4G and 5G mobile phone and broadband coverage to remote rural areas in the county.
The project is also part of the wider Government-funded Rural Connected Communities programme.
The project will look at how 4G and 5G technology will benefit rural communities and will specifically targeting areas with limited or no current coverage, ‘not spots’, which include the Coverdale area.
However, scores of objectors said the non-ionising radiation from the masts would be harmful to human health and would affect the park’s landscapes and ecology.
Campaigner Harriet Corner told the meeting the need for the masts had not been demonstrated and some 90 per cent of premises in area already had access to superfast fibre broadband, which was safer and superior in many ways to wireless technology.
She said while the scheme’s organisers had pledged it would not go ahead without the support of the majority of the community, that requirement had not been demonstrated.
The meeting heard while a national debate was continuing over the potential health impacts of 5G masts, the law was clear that planning authorities could not set their own health safeguards and could only consider the masts’ siting and design.
Members were told the applicant had confirmed the development would meet international health standards and not being able to get mobile coverage in the remote area could be a matter of life and death.
The meeting was told how even GPs and schools in the area struggled with the lack of connectivity in the area.
Members heard that students were having to sit in a car at the top of a hill just to take part in a lesson.
Ahead of them committee passing the plan, member Ian McPherson said the debate surrounding the Coverdale masts had been extremely controversial and compared commenting on it to “stepping into the lion’s den”.
He said: “I have always been very wary about mobile phone masts not only because of their impact on the environment, but also because of the possible health problems that they could give rise to, but what we are essentially looking at here is how we most properly address the issue of very clear not-spots in Coverdale.”