A NEW phone mast is to be installed in Woodley’s town centre – and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
The 20-metre-high mast was approved earlier this month under permitted development rights. It will be built at the Crockhamwell Road car park of The Chequers pub.
It will be 5G ready and include seven cabinets.
Many people objected, saying that the mast would be an eyesore and make the town “look awful”. Others pointed out that there are industrial sites nearby that could have been used.
Another said: “It is a huge blott on the landscape, and will be an unavoidable extremely undesirable landmark”.
Woodley Town Centre manager Brian Fennelly also expressed concern: “There has been considerable improvements to this end of the town centre recently. The nearby trees are an integral part of our Christmas Lights display and having a large mast and two other constructions nearby will seriously affect the overall vista.”
Despite local opposition, under the rules the mast had to be approved and Waldon Telecom has five years to install it. Had the mast been one centimetre taller, it would have need planning consent.
These rules, introduced in 2016, were brought in to meet demand for superfast mobile broadband.
Bulmershe and Whitegates councillor Shirley Boyt is one of those who is concerned by the planned installation.
“Wokingham borough planners approved it, they had no opinion, it’s permitted development, but it’s irksome where it is,” she said.
“People in Woodley will be vexed about where it is when it’s built, but by then it’s too late.
“The planning application was put in under the cover of covid and Christmas. It’s been done under the radar.”
She also felt that people can find it difficult to visualise the size of the new mast, which would be taller than one of the double decker buses that Reading Buses run through the town.
“The average street lamp is eight to 10 metres, this will be more than twice the height – it will be a huge thing,” she said.
“But it’s an unstoppable thing, people want the 5G roll-out, but the downside is that 5G needs more masts.”
She felt that Wokingham Borough Council could have looked at alternative places, such as Waitrose car park.
“My preference would have been behind the Oakwood Centre or behind the back of the shops. It would still have been visible but not so obvious.”
Cllr Boyt also wanted to know what other sites had been considered by Wokingham Borough Council’s planning department and rejected.
“The old mast was in one of the industrial estates, it’s still there and is a bit like a pylon, but nowhere near as tall,” she said.
“The owners said they didn’t want (the new mast) there.
“Why can’t we say we don’t want it in the precinct? If this company had said we want to put a mast in the centre of Wokingham town, (the council) would find a way not to do it.”
Cllr Wayne Smith, executive member for planning and enforcement: “The proposed mast at Woodley benefits from ‘permitted development’ rights laid down by central Government.
“This means that it is acceptable in principle subject to the ‘prior approval’ for its siting and appearance being granted by the Local Planning Authority (LPA). Prior Approval (203363) was granted on 11 January as there were not sufficient grounds to refuse it.
“As part of the application, the applicant submitted information to demonstrate that they had also considered several alternative sites; all of which had been discounted for various reasons.
“This information is detailed in the Supplementary Information report (Section 5 – Site Selection Process, page 15). All the relevant documents for the application are available to view at www. wokingham.gov.uk/planning, by searching for the application number 203363.”