Published: 14:00, 31 July 2020
There are fears a district's rural skyline could be “scarred by ugly masts” after the government announced a relaxation of restrictions in a bid to boost the 5G network.
Mobile phone masts will now be allowed to be built without full planning permission as MPs voted to scrap the rules last Wednesday.
Visitors, residents and businesses in Canterbury, and some of its surrounding rural areas, have long-been frustrated by the dreadful reception.
But Cllr Mike Sole (Lib Dem) is concerned local people will no longer have a say on where new masts are built or their design.
“The Kent Downs - an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - could see the skyline scarred by ugly masts,” the Nailbourne councillor said.
“Improved mobile phone coverage is a good thing, but you shouldn’t improve the ability of us to have better electronic communication at the cost of a reduction of communication in the planning process.”
Under the current rules, Cllr Sole says he was able to object to the location and design of a new mast in Kingston, which is yet to be decided upon by the city council’s planning officers.
But he has concerns this will not be the case in the future and fears they could just “spring up” and create an “eyesore”.
The government has also announced existing phone masts can now be altered without planning approval and building-based ones can be put closer to roads.
Currently, masts greater than 25 metres - or 20 metres in beauty spots - required planning permission.
Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding (Con) who works in the city centre and has long-campaigned for better signal has mixed views.
“I definitely support proposals that help with the roll-out of critical technology infrastructure, of which we are woefully underserved in Canterbury,” he said.
“However, I don’t think Canterbury’s issues are caused by planning.”
He says the city council is “trying to engage with mobile networks” to improve the reception in parts of the district. Minister for digital infrastructure Matt Warman, says the government is investing billions so no part of the UK is left behind.
“These changes will help target public funding in hard-to-reach areas most in need of better broadband,” he said.
“It will also help mobile companies banish rural not-spots by upgrading and sharing their masts.”
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