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‘Blot on landscape’ mast in National Park loses planning appeal

24 Nov 2023 3 minute read
A lone sheep on the Preseli Hills. Picture by Gareth James (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Bruce Sinclair Local Democracy Reporter

An appeal against a previously-refused financial trading telecommunications mast in an area of outstanding beauty has been dismissed.

Last October, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park planners refused an application by Britannia Towers Ltd, on behalf of Wholesailor, to build a 51-metre-high telecommunications tower supporting nine transmission dishes and six mobile coverage antennas in the Preseli Hills.

The proposed development would have been on privately-owned land at Pantmaenog Woodlands, Rosebush, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Adverse impact

Welsh Government-appointed inspectors refused the scheme on the grounds it “would have an unacceptably adverse impact on the visual amenities and landscape character of the national park”.

At their September 2023 meeting, national park planners heard that the applicants had lodged an appeal with Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW).

The tower would primarily have been used to link two data centres in London and Ireland, mostly related to financial trading, but would also improve local mobile phone signals, with Vodafone committing to use it should the appeal be successful.

The scheme had led to local objectors, including Maenclochog Community Council, which had said it “would be a blot on the landscape,” while concerned locals raised objections including the mast’s visual impact, the potential health impact of such a powerful transmitter sited near to people’s houses, and fears of it setting a precedent.

Inspector Thickett dismissed the appeal on November 21, saying the main issue was the impact of the proposed development on the landscape of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

He said: “I consider the proposed tower, dishes and antennae due to their location and height would have a significantly adverse impact on the landscape of the National Park.”

He added: “The overtly industrial and modern appearance of the proposed development, including the equipment cabinets and fencing, would be seriously at odds with and detract from the sense of remoteness and wildness which are identified as special qualities of this important landscape.”

A sacred place

Inspector Thickett noted the support from Vodafone, its commitment to use the tower should the appeal be allowed and the argument that this would improve coverage and capacity in the surrounding area, but stressed that, while policy supported the provision of digital communications infrastructure, it recognised that infrastructure in rural areas should be carefully planned to mitigate any impact on designated landscapes.

Campaigner Peter Ainsworth said: “I am heartened by the decision to deny the appeal for the construction of a communications tower in the Preselis. This victory is not just for the local residents but for everyone who cherishes the intrinsic value of our landscapes. The Preseli Mountains are more than just a scenic vista; they are a sacred place of vital cultural and psychological significance.”

Mr Ainsworth said campaigners were aware the applicants could seek a judicial review, but were “confident that any further challenges will also be met with a firm commitment to preserving the sanctity of the Preselis”.

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Hefin Wyn
Hefin Wyn
5 months ago

Sound the bugles of victory. Thanks to the Inspectorate for deciding in favour of common sense. It was good to see so many and such a wide cross-section of the inhabitants so keen to protect the Preselau. There are other elements as well that need to be protected such as the language and culture. Let us hope the custodians will be just as keen as a pressure group to withstand the perils and turn the current concerns into matters of joy in no time.

5 months ago
Reply to  Hefin Wyn

Rhaid gofalu hefyd fod ardaloedd tu allan i ffin y Parc Cenedlaethol ddim yn cael eu creitho gan parciau gwynt/ynnu. Nhw yw y diawled gweitha’ am sarnu ein gwlad ar hyn o bryd.

5 months ago

Why would they base trading on microwave links? The base network in the UK is fibre, more secure and diversity and not prone to weather interference. But 1 tower doesn’t not make a microwave network over a long distance. You need many towers because limitation to distance of a microwave circuit. BT had a network that covered the UK for TV and comms. Now its fibre.

5 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

Jeff i have posted above.
Use any of it you find useful.

5 months ago

I agree with two other comments. Jeff has a very valid point about the number of masts needed to make a microwave link. I have been involved in communications most of my and cannot see how the argument for a high speed backbone link to be carried on microwave. Highest data rate per carrier would be around 140 Mbits/sec per carrier.. Against 4 Gbits/sec on fibre-optic. As has been said weather problems would degrade microwave communications greatly. Security on the link would require fibre. ALSO all banking and security between the UK and Ireland will already be on links using… Read more »

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