Blakeney mobile phone mast plan divides opinion

Views from the top of Blakeney village church tower of the surrounding countryside and villages. Pic

Views from the top of Blakeney village church tower of the surrounding countryside and villages. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

A dilemma over preserving a protected landscape and boosting mobile phone signal is brewing in a coastal tourist village.

An application to build a 30 metre-high metal lattice tower on Friary Farm Caravan Park, Cley Road, Blakeney has been submitted by Arqiva to North Norfolk District Council.

It is part of the government's Mobile Infrastructure Project to eliminate 'not spot' areas - where people cannot make emergency 999 calls - and improve mobile phone signal within a four-mile radius of the village.

If approved, the technology would be built in dense woodland on National Trust-owned land, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and 200 metres from the grade one-listed St Nicholas' Church.

Julian Hiles, Friary Farm Caravan Park director, said the benefits to the community, economically and practically, would be 'enormous'.

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'Blakeney is a tourist centre in the summer. It seems strange that it cannot get a mobile phone signal in the 21st century. The location of the mast would be as discreet as you could get it,' he added.

Dr Marie Strong, who represents Blakeney on Norfolk County Council, said: 'We have a serious dichotomy. I am fully aware of the sensitivity of the proposed site in an AONB. At the same time I am not alone in sharing the government's concern that there are not spots where not even an emergency call can be made – not to police, ambulance, coastguard.'

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Godfrey Sayers, chairman of the parish council of Wiveton, which borders Blakeney, said tourism was the bedrock of north Norfolk and to build a phone mast on 'one of the most beautiful headlands' in the area would be unforgivable.

The parish council objects because of the mast's impact on the AONB and Mr Sayers would prefer the equipment to be housed in St Nicholas' Church.

Blakeney Parish Council has not decided on whether it supports the application, but chairman Tony Faulkner said his own view was there were considerable advantages to the mast in terms of phone signal but the chosen location was 'worrying'.

As well as the tower, featuring six antennas and two small transmission dishes, six equipment cabinets would be built around the bottom of the base station, if given approval.

It would be constructed between November this year and next spring and used by EE, Vodafone, O2 and 3.

The mobile phone operators will pay for maintenance costs during the mast's 20-year lease, which would have to be granted by the National Trust.

People can learn about the scheme at a drop-in session at Blakeney Village Hall this Tuesday, September 15, from 4-7pm.

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