Update 31st October 2023

Tide of masts turning???

You may not be surprised to learn, given our recent coverage of the topic, that in the Lake District, there has been an average of more than one telecommunications mast proposal per month this year!

We are pleased to report though that it does seem that the message is being heard that whilst our communities need good connectivity, the Lake District deserves better than the ill-thought through proposals that have dominated the applications submitted for masts so far. In fact, none of the last 12 mast proposals we have challenged have been approved on their first iteration.

You may also be aware that due to the low level of regard many of the applications have had for landscape character and factors such as appropriate access and impacts on tranquillity, we have felt it necessary to respond to almost all the mast proposals submitted.  In most cases we have had to point out multiple shortfalls in the applications, whether that be inaccurate, conflicting or false information, limited consideration of alternative sites or a narrow-in-scope (or completely absent) landscape and visual impact assessment.

It is important to point out that in most cases too, members of the community closest to the mast in question have also objected to the mast proposals, along with other organisations, including the National Trust, Parish Councils and Commoners Associations. Often the community has said they are happy with the existing level of connectivity and/or that they feel the harm the mast could do, whether visually, to local character or due to frequent fuel deliveries for example, is not outweighed by the benefits of often limited additional connectivity.  The masts are generally proposed in very remote areas, where there are few residents or businesses to benefit.  This is because the Government’s roll out of the scheme to ensure almost 100% coverage has already reached most areas and so only the most remote are left.  This in turn means that the locations proposed are hardest to access and in particularly sensitive areas tend to be largely free from modern, man-made structures.  It also often means that the public benefits are limited to those passing through the area.  The area to benefit from coverage as a result of the mast proposed at Caldbeck common recently only had one building in it – a walkers’ hostel.

As we have highlighted previously, mast proposals are often planned to be powered by diesel generators (again, because their remote locations would make mains connections tricky) and the impacts of this, including noise and fuel deliveries tend to be ignored or lacking detail in applications.   Watch video of a diesel powered telecoms mast at Hartsop.

The LDNPA has taken heed of our concerns and our efforts (along with that of others) to challenge inappropriate mast proposals are generating results.  Of the 11 most recent mast proposals we have responded to in the Lake District and a twelfth that was in the Cumbria part of the Yorkshire Dales:

  • Four were withdrawn.
  • Two remain live, although we have been made aware of revised plans for one of these in a different, less prominent location.
  • One has been refused and replaced with a shorter monopole design that has now been approved.
  • Five have been refused, one of these is now subject to a revised application in a different, more carefully considered location, another is at appeal, and a third was appealed but the appeal was turned down on landscape grounds – this is really important as it provides case law to show that mast proposals will not simply be waved through because they are part of a Government scheme and that landscape harms will be given significant weight against purported benefits.

Another was withdrawn just as we were about to submit our response.

We fully expect to see further mast proposals as revised applications come in for those proposals that have been withdrawn or refused, but we really hope that because of strong challenge from the LDNPA, communities, ourselves and other organisations, the tide is beginning to turn.  Rather than the ‘copy and paste’ responses we have become used to, we hope that the next round of proposals will be more carefully thought through, with more detailed consideration of alternatives and impacts, including those relating to access and power supply.  It remains the case that technological advances that are already taking place may reduce or avoid the need for masts in the near future and we’d still urge for rural areas, and protected landscapes in particular to be prioritised in making use of these in order to minimise landscape harm whilst ensuring rural homes, businesses and visitors have the connectivity they need.  But in the meantime, we’re pleased to have played a part in the progress made so far in ensuring the Lake District’s landscapes are properly taken into account when telecommunications masts are planned.

Update 28th July 2023

Yet More Masts!

With no fewer than 5 mast proposals appearing on our list of applications to look at in July, we continue to be concerned by the influx of proposals for new telecommunications masts.

Whilst connectivity in rural areas is important, many of the applications we have seen lack information about the benefits of a mast being located in a particular place, about how the proposed site has been selected and how landscape and other impacts have been taken into account. For example, many are to be powered by diesel generators and/or are proposed in areas that are currently almost entirely free of modern man-made structures. There also appears to be a disregard for any consideration of the alternatives provided by advancing technology, such as satellites, and whether that might leave dozens of obsolete masts in the not-too-distant future.

Recent proposals include a 15m mast at Martindale (7/2023/3095), a 30m mast at Patterdale (7/2023/3090) and a 35m mast at Ennerdale (7/2023/4056).

You can view the details of each application by searching using the corresponding reference number here.

A proposal for a 20m mast at Bampton (7/2023/3086) has been withdrawn (August 2023).

A proposal for a 25m mast on Birker Fell (7/2023/4053) has been refused (August 2023). 

Update 5th April 2023

Buttermere Mast refused
We are pleased to report that the proposed mast at Buttermere, which met with significant objection for local people, visitors to the area, the National Trust and us at Friends of the Lake District, was refused this week on grounds of landscape and visual impact. This is in addition to the refusal of a mast at Rusland last week.

Whilst we recognise the need for improved connectivity, this must be achieved in ways that also conserve and enhance the National Park’s special landscapes.

More masts!

As expected, yet more proposals for new telecommunications mast have been submitted.  The latest is a 50m mast proposed close to Wythburn Church, Thirlmere.  You can find out more about this application by searching for 7/2023/2016 here.  A proposal for a mast in the Rusland was recently turned down on landscape grounds and we await decisions on masts proposed at Langdale and Haweswater. 

21st February 2023

There has been a steady stream of mast applications in the Lake District and elsewhere in Cumbria, including in the Yorkshire Dales, in recent years, however, the Government’s drive to speed the roll out of 5G and eliminate ‘not spots’ or partial ‘not spots’ – rural areas with limited or no mobile coverage – means that many more mast proposals are expected.  Indeed, there are currently at least three planning applications for new 25m and 30m masts in the Lake District National Park. 

These are at Haweswater (7/2022/3167), Langdale (7/2022/5804) and Buttermere (7/2022/2312). You can view the details of each application by searching using the corresponding reference number here WPHAPPCRITERIA (lakedistrict.gov.uk)

We have received a number of emails from concerned members and local residents about the siting of these and will be responding to these applications over the coming weeks. 

3rd February 2023

Read our responses to:

Haweswater mast proposal (pdf):

7/2022/3167 Installation of a 30m communications mast, EAS and SRN antennas, ground-based apparatus and ancillary development, Land at Lad Crags, Haweswater Reservoir CA10 2RP the Haweswater mast proposal (7/2022/2312)

Great Langdale mast proposal (pdf):

7/2022/5804 Installation of 30m communications mast, antennas, ground-based apparatus and ancillary development, Land near Great Langdale Campsite, Side Gates Road, Great Langdale, LA22 9JU

31st January 2023

Read our response to the Buttermere mast proposal (pdf):

7/2022/2312 Installation of 25m communications mast, antennas, ground-based apparatus and ancillary development, Gatesgarth Farm, Buttermere, Cockermouth, CA13 9XA

24th January 2023

We recognise that it is essential for rural communities to secure levels of digital connectivity such as fast broadband and good mobile ‘phone signals to support both work and leisure. Such technology not only helps to ensure that our rural communities remain vital and viable into the future but also supports the emergency services, including Mountain Rescue, to operate effectively wherever they are needed. However, these needs must be balanced with conserving and enhancing the landscape and heritage assets for their own sake and for the essential provisions they provide, including the health and well-being benefits we derive from the peace, tranquillity and beauty of our surroundings. This is especially important in  our protected landscapes and their settings. 

We want to see that whenever possible, existing masts are shared by mobile ‘phone operators rather than putting up new masts, that a range of sites are thoroughly assessed when considering new sites to ensure the most appropriate and least harmful site is selected, and that infrastructure is removed when no longer needed. We also want to see all the impacts of new masts properly addressed, such as how access and power supplies to remote mast sites is provided. Satellite technology to provide coverage is also moving on apace, so this too needs to be considered as an alternative to the prospect of multiple new masts in our National Parks.