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Community / Residents voice concern over proposed mobile mast

Image: Shetland Islands Council/Galliford Try

CONCERNS have been raised by local residents over plans to install a mobile network mast next to housing in a busy part of Lerwick.

Three locals whose houses would sit next to the proposed 17.5m telecommunications mast at the top of Quendale Lane spoke out against the plans from O2 at a meeting of the Lerwick Community Council on Tuesday.

The community council itself sided with an objection from Shetland Island’s Council’s roads department, noting that the proposed development would also find itself in the local conservation area.

The grey-coloured mast is being proposed to improve mobile network services in the area, with two dishes and five cabinets also mooted at the base.

The lane runs up the side of the old swimming pool car park, connecting Commercial Street with Hillhead.

The applicant said that “due to the demographics and ranges of business within the town, the demand for improved telecommunications service is high”.

The operator has a base station at the police station at the moment, but it is unable to upgrade it – meaning that it requires a new station to maintain 2G and 3G coverage and the improve 4G in the Lerwick area.

It claimed that it would “minimise the visual impact of the infrastructure on the surrounding environment”.

But neighbouring residents on Gladstone Terrace have voiced their frustration with the plans.

Karen Anderson told members of Lerwick Community Council the top level of their windows was “nearly level with the Town Hall clock” – yet the mast is expected to stand higher than the houses’ chimneys.

“We are really concerned about the emissions that will be coming from the mast,” she added.

It was her view that there were more suitable locations for the mast instead of right next to residential housing – even just in another part of the old swimming pool car park, for example.

“This is also part of the tourist trail,” Anderson noted – with cruise ship passengers often coming up the lane.

“There’s hundreds and hundreds of folk in the summer.”

Anderson said the applicant sent a letter to local residents in September asking for feedback.

But once their opinions were sent back, “they never spoke to any one of us again”.

Another neighbour, Dave Pepper, said he sent in an official complaint about the planning application.

His concerns spanned three areas: the visual effect, possible radiation from the mast and safety of heavily powered pieces of kit in a residential location – especially in the dark.

Pepper believed that the mast would end being “slightly taller” than the Town Hall flag.

Other local residents have opposed the plans, but they were unable to make the meeting.

Lerwick Community Council member Damien Ristori said the developer should instead look into sites outwith the town.

Stand-in chairman Gary Robinson, however, noted that there were already masts in Lerwick – so it could be unfair to, in theory, put a ban on new masts in the town.

But he said his concern was that the location was a conservation area  – and in an area where people seemingly struggle to get permission to even put up a satellite dish.

Robinson proposed that the community council supported a response from the SIC’s road department, which said that the operator should look for alternative sites due to the impact the development would have on the footpath at the top of Quendale Lane.

General Election - 12 December 2019