School consults its lawyers after phone mast gets go-ahead

January 06 2021
School consults its lawyers after phone mast gets go-ahead

A WELLS school has spoken of its shock after a decision to allow a phone mast to be sited on its sports ground.

Wells Cathedral School has been consulting its lawyers about the options it now has available.

An application by Vodafone for a 12.5m lattice mast at the school’s sports ground at Tor Hill Lane was refused by Mendip District Council in March 2020.

Vodafone lodged an appeal in August, and the Planning Inspectorate allowed the appeal and granted prior approval for the mast and associated equipment in a decision notice dated December 9.

The school had requested that the appeal be dismissed, and Wells City Council, St Cuthbert Out Parish Council and the majority of residents who made public comments had objected to the plans.

In a statement, Wells Cathedral School said: “We were concerned to read the decision by the Planning Inspectorate regarding the siting of a 12.5m lattice mast on our sports ground.

“We have two particular concerns.

“First is the fact that this has been approved, despite being described by the inspector himself as being ‘detrimental to the area’s visual qualities’.

“Second is the lack of consultation. In his report, the inspector cites the Code of Best Practice on Mobile Network Development in England, which states that there should be consultation with a school prior to the submission of any application. The inspector then goes on to say that although this prior consultation did not happen, this has not weighed heavily against the proposal.

“We are shocked that best practice has been ignored, that parents have not been given the opportunity to learn more about the proposal, and that we have not had the chance to address any concerns about siting a mast on school grounds. As it stands, this whole process feels undemocratic.

“The school has always felt that it is not our place to support or object to the mast – this is something for the community to decide. However we do feel strongly that there should be full consultation with that community, and that a full planning application process would be the best way for that to be achieved.

“Our understanding at this time is that the development will now proceed, and that we will be compelled to allow the developers access to our land. However we have consulted our lawyers regarding our options going forward. We expect to make a second public statement when we have received that advice.”

Peter Welsh, who lives in nearby Bekynton Avenue, was one of those who objected to the planning application. He said: “I am dismayed and perplexed by the decision to approve the Wells Cathedral School phone mast as it will alter and blight this green space forever.”

A Vodafone spokesperson said: “We’re working to ensure that our customers can use their mobiles wherever they live, work and travel, and we require additional sites in order to ensure our customers in Wells have strong and reliable coverage.

“With Cornerstone, who manage our planning applications, we proposed a new site at Strawberry Fields to provide 3G and 4G services. Unfortunately, this proposed development was refused by the Local Planning Authority. 

“After assessing this refusal we  felt that the proposed development was the best solution available locally and submitted an appeal against this decision. This appeal has now been allowed which will allow Vodafone to provide network services to their customers.”