Street Record, Woolley Lane, Charlcombe
The proposed site of development is located along Woolley Lane to the east of Charlecombe village, adjacent to the Larkhall Athletic Football Club. Both Charlecombe Lane and Woolley Lane are characterised by narrow, rural lanes and well-screened with mature trees. Whilst not within the Charlecombe 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 Charlecombe 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).
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.
We are disappointed that no drawings, elevations, or design details appear to have been submitted as part of this application for the benefit of public appraisal. Without these drawings, we consider this application to be incomplete, and cannot be properly assessed with full consideration as to its visual impact and positioning within the landscape.
Nonetheless, in principle we maintain that this site is highly sensitive as part of the rural, open landscape setting of the World Heritage site and conservation area, as well as contributing to the localised and verdant quality of the rural lanes and holloways of the area, particularly running towards Charlecombe. Therefore, the Trust is highly concerned regarding the erection of a 20m monopole, particularly considering the potential proximity of another 20m monopole in the same field. It is felt that the proposed monopole structure will likely be visually intrusive and have a harmful impact on the rural character of the AONB and Green Belt, have a detrimental visual impact on views and setting of the Charlcombe Conservation Area, and the skyline and setting to the World Heritage Site. We feel that the verdant character of Woolley Lane will be compromised due to the low height of the boundary hedging, particularly along the eastern side of the road, and the proposed height and mass of the monopole’s apertures will be visually invasive due to the typical bulk and material type of 5G telecommication masts.
We would therefore emphasise the importance of submitting the relevant proposed plans and elevations to clarify this point. Whilst it has been stated that “the design and type of equipment to be deployed in this case has been chosen specifically to minimise the impact of this proposed mast upon the local area,” we have been provided with no evidence to verify this claim. We would further disagree with the use of the Colliers Lane mast as a design precedent, as this is an example of a poorly-screened and visually intrusive monopole that is visible not only a long way down Colliers Lane, but also from the mid-range landscape view of Woolley Lane.
Due to the lack of available information, we remain cautious regarding the impact of the new monopole on the medium and long-range landscape views, and feel that, should this application be consented, it would act as an undesirable precedent for the inevitable installation of further 5G monopoles within the area by different service providers. In conjunction with application 19/05534/FUL, this application is already beginning to mark an intensification of mast positioning which will be of significant detriment to the open and largely undeveloped setting of Bath, in which an increasing density of urban infrastructure would be aesthetically unwelcome. 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 to best mitigate the inevitable visual harm to the Outstanding Universal Value of Bath’s green, undeveloped hillsides and rural skyline and its contribution to the setting of a World Heritage site.
We ultimately do not feel that this application has suitably considered the negative visual impact on the natural significance and aesthetic value of its setting. We would strongly recommend that an LVIA is submitted as part of this application with relevant visual montages to enable a fully-informed assessment as to what aspects of Bath’s landscape character will be harmed by the proposed works.
Ultimately, we do not feel that the prospective visual harm to the area has been fully realised, nor substantially mitigated through the provision of 5G connectivity as claimed within the application. The conclusion that the visual impact on the mast’s setting would be “minimal” and “would assimilate successfully into its surroundings” is indicative of a lack of sympathetic understanding as to the value of the AONB and Green Belt.
We are disappointed by the lack of understanding regarding aesthetic impact on an attractive, rural portion of the AONB and Green Belt contrary to sections 15 and 16 of the NPPF. We are aware that this application will contribute towards a planning precedent for future monopole installation in conjunction with the ongoing application 19/05534/FUL, and should therefore offer a more carefully considered range of designs to ensure the monopole’s visual impact on its context is suitably mitigated. We find the lack of design information provided as part of this application to be unacceptable.
The application in its current form therefore fails to conserve or enhance the local landscape character of the AONB, is harmful to the character and openness of the Green Belt and would harm the OUV of the World Heritage Site.
This application is consequently contrary to Sections 13, 15, and 16 of the NPPF, and Policies B1, B4, BD1, CP6, D2, HE1, NE2, and CP8 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, and in its current form should be refused. The Trust will respond in further detail should this application be resubmitted or revised with relevant drawings of the proposed mast, and the submission of a LVIA.