Mobile phone operator O2 has one month to remove its controversial phone mast from the centre of Burnham-On-Sea after losing its bid to keep the structure in place – but the company has won the right to locate a mast in Highbridge.
Burnham-On-Sea.com can exclusively report the Planning Inspectorate has concluded O2 should remove the Marine Drive mast, pictured above, but retain a 25-metre mast with three antennae at Isleport Farm, west of Isleport Road.
The inspectorate has branded the Marine Drive phone mast “jarring, ill proportioned, top heavy and over-obtrusive.”
On Monday (March 19th), a spokeswoman confirmed to Burnham-On-Sea.com: “The appeal has been dismissed and planning permission has been refused. The requirement is to cease the use of the land and the period for compliance is one month.”
The inspector’s report concludes: “Marine Drive serves as the main approach into Burnham-On-Sea for the visitors to the resort whom the Council wish to continue attracting in good numbers for the town’s economic health.”
“I found this to be a pleasant thoroughfare, lined as it is with ample grass verges behind which much of the development is in the form of low height bungalows. Its open broad sweep serves as an attractive introduction to the town. In this setting, the mast in question strikes a particularly jarring note, standing out as an ill proportioned, top heavy and over-obtrusive structure.”
“The designer’s presumed attempt to replicate an item of street furniture in context with its surroundings has been, I find, wholly unsuccessful here. I conclude that in this setting it is unacceptable that the installation should remain in place.”
The decision comes after an Enforcement Order was placed on O2 by Sedgemoor District Council last year when the company’s six-month ‘temporary’ installation expired. O2 submitted a five-page appeal against the Order, and this in turn sparked an enquiry by the government’s Planning Inspectorate. An inspector visited the site last month.
Welcoming the decision on Monday, Burnham-On-Sea Town Council Planning Chairman Peter Clayton told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “This mast was erected under emergency powers and should have been a temporary measure for six months until a suitable site could be found. I feel there has been more than enough time by now if the will was there, so I am pleased that action has been taken and the right decision has been made.”
“I am pleased for the residents in the area who were very concerned and it hopefully will send a message to other companies that we will not tolerate masts being erected without consultation with the council and residents. I am sure now this action has been taken we will soon see an alternative – and more suitable – site found very soon.”
“There are now many designs for these masts and there are some that are more sensitive to the environment and the area in question, so I look forward to a more realistic application in the near future.”
The latest development comes after a long-running saga at the site. In May 2006, Burnham-On-Sea.com reported that district planners had rejected a request by O2 to move the mast onto the seafront. And, separately, town planners voted against an application by Orange for a second phone mast to be installed on Marine Drive.