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Council / Lerwick phone mast would be a ‘monstrosity’, meeting hears as appeal is denied

Councillors also remove a planning condition for a new house at Scatsta following an appeal

PROPOSALS for a mobile phone mast near Lerwick Town Hall have suffered another setback after gaining no support from members of Shetland Islands Council’s planning committee.

Lerwick North councillor Malcolm Bell said the 17.5 metre mast would be a “monstrosity” if it was erected in its proposed location at the top of Quendale Lane near Hillhead.

An appeal on the previously refused plans went in front of the planning committee on Monday and councillors upheld the original decision.

Image: Shetland Islands Council/Galliford Try

Telefónica, which owns mobile operator O2, had applied to install the mast and associated infrastructure to improve network services in the area.

Last year the planning service rejected the application and ruled that it was not in keeping with the characteristics of the Lerwick lanes conservation area – with the mast likely to “look and feel out of place”.

There was also a worry that approving the plans could set a precedent where it might be difficult for similar developments to be refused in the future.

The proposed mast was to be a replacement for the existing lattice style mast at Lerwick Police Station. However, there was a failure to reach agreement on the existing mast’s decommissioning, leading to other sites being considered.

The plans for the mast had been opposed by some local residents living at Gladstone Terrace, with their objections heard in person at a meeting of Lerwick Community Council.

The applicant had said the development of a new ground based mast was the “last and indeed only option available”, and that Quendale Lane was deemed to be the most appropriate site.

In its appeal, the applicant said it felt that the council had “not taken full account of the significant efforts” to ensure the site and design solution struck the “most appropriate balance between operational requirements and the environmental consideration”.

It also described the mast and associated infrastructure as a “much-needed telecommunications development”.

At Monday’s planning committee meeting councillors heard from development manager team leader John Holden about the reasons why the original application was turned down.

Lerwick North member Bell said after weighing up both sides he felt the mast would not fit the local area.

He noted that the mast would be “just five metres lower than the Town Hall clock face”.

Some councillors were also left puzzled as to why the applicant did not look into using the existing mast site at the police station further, with central councillor Moraig Lyall claiming it was “disingenuous” to say there was not sufficient space there.

Bell’s motion to refuse the appeal was seconded by Shetland South member Robbie McGregor.

Meanwhile, a condition relating to plans for a new house opposite Scatsta Airport has been removed by the committee on appeal.

Plans for the house were given approval by the planning service last summer.

But one condition for its approval was for an existing access road to the main B9076 be permanently closed off for vehicles.

The applicants said they would use a different access road slightly north of the house.

The planning condition said this access road should be closed off to vehicles. © Google 2020

It stemmed from the roads department saying that the access road now proposed for closure would not provide enough visibility.

The applicants, Stuart and Hannah Henry, said in their appeal that they believed the closure of the access track was “not necessary nor relevant to the development”.

They added that the road proposed for closure is heavily used when the other junction is used by large agricultural machinery for a nearby farm.

The applicants also said that “imposing permanent closure is unduly restorative on the three existing dwellings and their residents”, adding that the junction is used safely and appropriately daily.

North Mainland councillor Andrea Manson said the main road running past Scatsta had been used by thousands of cars during the construction of the gas plant, and that there were no accidents at the junction.

She felt it would be “overkill” to impose the condition.

Roads engineer Colin Gair said he was not aware of any accidents or reports of dangerous driving at the junction area in the last few years.

Following questioning from Lyall he added that if the new house was not being proposed, the council could “only close off junctions if there’s an accident history”.

Bell said he felt similar applications had come in front of the planning committee in recent years and that councillors had likely set a precedent.

Councillors backed the removal of the condition, with Manson believing that closing the junction could cause actually accidents as folk are so accustomed to using it.

The north councillor’s motion to remove the condition was backed by Lerwick member Cecil Smith.

Bell added as a footnote that the committee was not attacking the work of council officers, who were technically correct in imposing the condition.

“I don’t want this to be read as a criticism of the officers,” he said.