OFFICIALS AND COUNCILLORS DID NOT SPOT PROBLEM
Big problems remain regarding the position of the mast bang next door to the Gretna memorial.
EE Ltd and Hutchison 3G (UK) Ltd contacted City of Edinburgh Council about their proposal on 1 March 2018, and asked for any comments in writing by 16 April. Here’s how they visualised the new 17.5m pole and associated equipment in situ.
It's not ideal, but at least there is a little distance between mast and Iona Cross. Below, if you need reminding, is where the mast and associated boxes ended up.
We haven’t identified any documented reason for the apparent change, but in fairness to EE and Hutchison 3G, their original location plan and grid reference (325985.675579) were a lot closer to the current reality.
A developer’s document labelled ‘Supplementary Information’ makes it clear that there was no contact with any Local Planning Authority official (we assume this means direct contact with an individual).
On the same day, notification was sent to Councillors Donaldson, McNeese-Mechan, Rae, and Ritchie (Leith Walk ward). ‘However, no comments were forthcoming in the specified timeframe.’
Here comes the jaw-dropping moment. ‘Considering the straightforward and non-contentious nature of the proposal, it was deemed appropriate to proceed with the GPDO [general permitted development order] application and discuss any aspect of this proposal with the relevant case officer in due course.’
EE and Hutchison 3G didn’t see any particular problem with the site. In fact the proximity of another telecom mast nearby made them feel confident in their choice:
The application site has a cemetery on one side (South) and recreational space to the other (North) …. There is already one existing Telecom Street Pole opposite the Subject Site. This pole is owned by Telefonica O2 and while it is not a shareable Structure … it does set a precedent for Telecoms use in the immediate area. There are mature trees lining Broughton Road providing a good backdrop as well as Street lighting columns providing some vertical context for the proposed street pole. There are no residential dwellings in close proximity or with direct views. …
The site is not included within any designations or land allocations that need to be taken into account in addition to planning policy relating to electronic communications.
Our conclusion is that the development of a new 17.5m street pole at the subject site strikes the best balance between environmental and operational considerations, including the key requirement for the development to be close to the properties it is intended to serve. The proposed installation has far less visual impact than the existing mast [at 15 Bonnington Road Lane] that will be removed once successful integration of the subject has been achieved.
The application was formally registered on 19 March, and CEC’s Planning Department duly approved it on 28 June 2018, noting that because the mast did not exceed 25m it represented ‘permitted development’.
Significantly, perhaps, the conditions of the consent also stated that ‘Drawings 01 – 04, represent the determined scheme’. So if the visualisation shown above were found to be misleading, perhaps that would provide grounds for reconsidering the whole case.
What seems to emerge from all this is that the law governing where telecoms apparatus can be installed is generally permissive, and the process for considering such an installation on this occasion signally failed to pick up on a problem.
The position of the mast so intrusively close to the Gretna memorial remains deeply insensitive. Something must be done.