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Countryside campaigners bid to block plans for radio masts in Richborough near Sandwich

By Eleanor Perkins

The Campaign to Protect Rural England in Kent (CPRE) believes heritage, landscape and ecological harm would be caused if permission is granted for Vigilant Global UK’s application for a 322m mast and New Line Networks’ proposed 305m tower.

CPRE Kent planner Jillian Barr said: “We are concerned that masts of this great height would spoil an important and historic landscape and could harm bird and other wildlife populations.

“We are calling for alternative sites and technologies to be considered and for mobile phone operators to work together and share masts so there are fewer to spoil our landscapes.”

Due to the flat, open nature of the landscape, the charity says the proposed structures would represent a substantial and unpleasant feature, ruining views to and from Richborough Castle across a beautiful and distinctive area.

CPRE Kent also believes that the applicants have not demonstrated that they have fully considered alternative sites and other technologies which would avoid harm to landscapes of historical, cultural and archaeological importance.

Both companies have already submitted their applications to Dover District Council, one at the former Richborough power station and one at land to the north of Kings End Farm.

Eric Bellerive, director of Global Networks at Vigilant Global, has responded to the groups’ concerns, although New Line Networks has not commented.

Mr Bellerive said: “The location for the proposed Richborough mast, within the Richborough industrial corridor, has been carefully chosen and we have worked closely with expert ecologists from the outset.

“Vigilant has been determined to ensure that the mast minimises any impact on local flora and fauna.

“This informed the choice of site, close to the numerous existing and proposed commercial operations in the near vicinity.

“We also commissioned detailed field surveys prior to submission, and these have helped to shape the final design of the mast, including the installation of bird deflectors on all cable supports.

“This approach, ensuring that ecological considerations have been taken into account from the outset, is evidenced by the fact that statutory consultees Natural England and the RSPB have not objected to the application.”

Vigilant also highlighted the substantial benefits it believes the mast would deliver, including a community fund of at least £100,000 per annum, expanded wireless broadband coverage with increased speeds of up to 100Mbps, and additional funding for much-needed resources to local community groups and organisations.

Mr Bellerive said: “We believe this significantly outweighs the very limited wildlife and heritage impact.”

Responding to concerns that the companies should work together, he added: “Both the location and height ensure that the mast provides the optimal solution to the communication requirements of the financial sector, and means that this mast offers a single solution to the needs of multiple users.

“We have been in discussions with other companies about sharing the mast since the start of the project and now have agreements in place with other firms, which eliminates the need for them to build masts of their own.

“The microwave technology proposed is the only available solution capable of providing the speed and performance needed by this sector, current alternatives such as fibre optics do not meet the sector’s communications needs.”

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