Political intervention has led to hope that Swaledale an Arkengarthdale could soon benefit from improved mobile phone coverage.
A new communications mast for the emergency services to be erected in an isolated spot in Arkengarthdale will be capable of carrying commercial mobile phone and 4G network equipment from several phone companies after Richmond MP Rishi Sunak got involved.
It is hoped further new masts erected in the Upper Dales will have the same capability in the future.
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Arkengarthdale Parish Council wrote to Mr Sunak after Upper Dales county councillor John Blackie alerted members that a mast to be erected at Seal Houses was only capable of carrying the equipment necessary for the emergency services and mobile phone company EE, and would not be available for other commercial 4G phone and broadband services to use.
But following contact between Mr Sunak, the planning authority and the Government, the Home Office confirmed this week that it would be making a fresh application to the Yorkshire Dales National Park planning authority for the type of mast capable of carrying several commercial operators’ equipment.
The Home Office said it had been notified by the national park that a fresh application for a fully shareable lattice tower-type structure at Seal Houses would be considered favourably.
When approving the original planning application for the Seal Houses mast, the national park had favoured a monopole structure because it would have less of an impact on the landscape.
The monopoles would be installed by EE for the Home Office and would have EE equipment attached meaning they could improve EE coverage if switched on by the phone company, however they are unable to carry additional equipment to support other commercial services from companies such as Vodafone and Three.
The intervention by Mr Sunak follows action by Upper Dales county councillor and national park member John Blackie to highlight the issue of monopole masts being favoured over the lattice masts.
Mr Sunak said: “I am very pleased that the Home Office and the national park have come to a understanding about the importance of these masts being capable of extending mobile phone and broadband coverage in areas where existing phone and 4G coverage is patchy at best and non-existent in many instances.”
“In correspondence I had with the Minister last year, it was made clear to me that the company building the masts – EE – would be offering a commercial service given that the Government was meeting the cost of building the structures in the most remote rural areas like the Dales. Further, the design of the masts would facilitate their use by other mobile operators where possible and commercially viable.”
Mr Sunak said he would also write to the national park authority asking it to fully take into account the Home Office Minister’s guidance on mast shareability when considering any future mast applications.
Cllr Blackie said he was delighted that his alert to parish councils in the Upper Dales following a planning committee meeting at the YDNPA, where members overturned an officer recommendation for a monopole mast in favour of a lattice mast capable of taking a number of mobile telephone service providers, had led to the intervention.
He added that there would now be a new application for a lattice mast at High Seal Houses in Arkengarthdale which will deliver the mobile service promised by MP Rishi Sunak last September when the monopole mast was approved.
He said: “The current planning application for the monopole mast at Crowtrees near Muker is to be withdrawn and a new application for a lattice mast is to be submitted.
“A mobile service provider operating from Crowtrees would serve Muker, Thwaite and Keld and traffic going across the formidable and often frightening Buttertubs Pass to and from Hawes.
“This has been confirmed to me by Richard Graham, Development Manager at the YDNPA.
“Finally there remains the proposed mast at Birkdale Common near Keld and I have called this application in to the planning committee for decision in the hope that the Home Office will direct the applicants to replace this with a lattice mast as well.”
“All told this is excellent news for the Upper Dales – soon we will have the necessary mobile communications infrastructure in place.
“Then we must convince mobile operators to install their equipment to meet our desperate need for the services only they can provide.”
However, Richard Graham, head of development, at YDNPA, says it is extremely unlikely that other mobile phone companies will want to install their equipment on the new masts.
Read his comments on the issue here.