Larkhall Sports Club, Charlcombe Lane, Charlcombe
The proposed site of development is located along Woolley Lane to the east of Charlcombe village, adjacent to the Larkhall Athletic Football Club. The proposed monopole would be located in the north-east corner of the sports field, to the south of the Grade II 17th century Twinfield Farmhouse. Both Charlcombe Lane and Woolley Lane are characterised by narrow, rural lanes and are well-screened with mature trees. Whilst not within the Charlcombe conservation area, the site is positioned within Bath’s Green Belt and the Cotswolds AONB, and remains an attractive and significant rural area within the setting of Bath’s World Heritage site, which is recognised to be of Outstanding Universal Value.
We note that this application marks the second application for a telecommunications monopole on this site, with a previous application proposing the replacement of an existing mast between Woolley Lane and Charlcombe Lane, which we objected to on grounds of unmitigated visual harm to the Green Belt and AONB, a lack of considered design, and little demonstrated understanding as to the monopole’s rural, verdant setting (see application 19/05534/FUL).
We further note that this current application is a resubmission of withdrawn application 20/01315/TEL, to which we also objected on grounds of insufficient plans and little justification for, or mitigation of, harm to the local landscape character of the AONB, the character and openness of the Green Belt and the OUV of the World Heritage Site.
BPT continues to emphasise that we appreciate the necessity for the upgrade of the existing provision of access to 5G networks in rural areas that are often not as well serviced as our urban centres; it is an important and positive improvement of public amenity and technological access.
There appears to be a misnomer within this planning application; whilst the monopole itself would be 20m, the total height of the structure including the proposed antennas would be 23.4m. It is this latter height that should be consequently referred to throughout the application when considering visual impact.
We maintain concerns regarding the apparent, continued absence of a demonstrated scheme or operations plan regarding ongoing upgrades within and around Bath. We continue to note that we have reached a period in which a widescale replacement of existing, outdated masts is imminent, and therefore it is critical at this moment to establish a fixed framework for appropriate mast designs and positions in the landscape, as well as Bath’s townscape (see application 20/02388/TEL). No mention is made regarding rollout proposal discussions with the Cotswolds Conservation Board that may have informed the location and design of this proposal, despite the Joint Accord signed by Vodafone in 2013. We continue to feel that this application could propose an intensification of mast usage in this hillside area of the AONB, in conjunction with the existing mast at the junction of Charlcombe Lane and Woolley Lane, which has not been demonstratively considered in the weighing of harm against public benefit.
Whilst no tree works are being proposed as part of this application, we feel the proposal could exacerbate future pressure on trees to the north and east boundaries of the playing field site. The lanes are characterised by the strong presence of hedging and grouped mature planting, resulting in an enclosed, verdant appearance, particularly along Charlcombe Lane. Consequently, the removal or drastic crowning of mature trees in this area would be at the direct detriment to the rural character of the Green Belt and AONB, and, should the monopole structure be permitted, it would be dependent on the this tree cover to mitigate potential visual harm within short-range and long-range views through the AONB, Green Belt, and wider landscape setting of the World Heritage Site. Therefore, we emphasise the need for careful consideration of the mast’s proposed placement and height in relation to boundary tree cover to best prevent future, ongoing detriment to the appearance and character of the area.
However, should this proposal be deemed acceptable, we feel that the current, more slender monopole design is preferable to a more visually bulky lattice tower. We are supportive of the applicant’s cooperation with B&NES officers to negotiate a more appropriate paint colour and finish, should the monopole be approved. The Trust feels that a darker colour paint finish would better blend the monopole with its surrounding tree cover, particularly as viewed from the north (see Photomontage 4) and across the playing field (see Photomontage 2).