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Wateringbury villagers angry to learn of 18m phone mast going up at busy crossroads

Wateringbury residents are angry to discover that a 59ft high phone mast is about to be erected close to the busy crossroads in the centre of their village.

Most villagers only became aware of the proposals when contractors began installing the base cabinets on the site ahead of the mast.

The site of the phone mast, by the yellow box, is close to the village hall, behind
The site of the phone mast, by the yellow box, is close to the village hall, behind

The application to erect the mast by CK Hutchison Networks was advertised by Tonbridge and Malling council with a notice on a lamp-post last October; the council also wrote to five nearby properties in Bow Road - none of which made any objection.

But Stuart Mathieson, 71, who has lived in Tonbridge Road opposite the site for 15 years, said he had not been informed.

He said: "Who is going to stand at Wateringbury Crossroads, one of the most polluted spots in the borough, to read a yellow notice?"

The mast is being erected on the grass verge, alongside number 115 Tonbridge Road, close to the junction of Tonbridge Road, Bow Road and Red Hill. The verge is owned by KCC.

Angry residents attended a meeting of Wateringbury Parish Council on Tuesday night to complain only to discover that the parish had nodded the application through last November, even though it falls within a Conservation Area.

The new equipment boxes
The new equipment boxes

Under Government legislation to improve mobile phone coverage, phone masts have prior approval permitted development rights, meaning that the grounds on which planning authorities can refuse them are very limited.

Tonbridge and Malling gave the scheme official approval on November 23 after receiving zero objections.

CK Hutchison Networks said the mast was essential to provide the Three phone service with 5G capacity.

Although 5G is faster for phone users, the radio waves travel shorter distances, meaning more masts have to be built to provide adequate coverage.

However, while the positioning of the mast at the crossroads is upsetting many, it is perhaps good news for neighbours in surrounding streets.

Stuart Mathieson
Stuart Mathieson

The phone company revealed that it had examined alternative sites, which had been dismissed in favour of the selected location.

Of the alternative sites, three were in Bow Road, two in Maidstone Road and one in Orchard Crescent.

Mr Mathieson said: "There was no real pubic consultation; the whole thing has been treated as if this was a trifling affair."

But a council spokesman said: "The law obliges us either to contact those residents who immediately abut the application site or to erect a site notice. In this case the council carried out both."

CK Hutchison Networks assured residents: "This equipment is considered unlikely to have any material impact on the local area but will bring significant connectivity improvements."

The site as it looked before
The site as it looked before
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