Telecommunication Mast 54146, Woolley Lane, Charlcombe
The proposed site of development is located between Charlcombe Lane and Woolley Lane to the east of Charlcombe village. Both Charlcombe Lane and Wooley Lane are characterised by narrow, rural lanes and 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.
BPT understands 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.
However, in this sensitive location the Trust is concerned regarding the proposed, drastic increase of the height of the monopole from 14.7m to 19.7m. It is felt that the proposed monopole structure will 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 Charlcombe Lane will be compromised due to the inadequate height of the mature tree screening, and the increased mass of the monopole’s apertures will be visually invasive due to its bulk and material type.
In addition there may be further harmful impacts on landscape character if further tree reduction or removal is justified as a consequence of any approval.
We are additionally 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. The white paper ‘Meeting the challenge of “Universal” coverage, reach and reliability in the coming 5G era’ (2015) highlights that the majority of existing masts are coming to the end of their life and require replacement; therefore, “this provides the opportunity point for a new 5G approach that finds a more optimal balance between landscape aesthetics versus better mobile coverage”. We ultimately do not feel that this application has suitably considered the negative visual impact on its surrounding landscape, and has missed the opportunity for the formulation of a ‘prototype’ mast design that suitably considers 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.
We are disappointed by the singular design perspective provided within this application. The lack of a documented design journey has resulted in a lack of adequate justification for the submitted design; therefore, the proposed structure appears isolated from its natural context and setting. We would encourage the application to incorporate a wider range of design alternatives to enable the structure to be better tailored to its environment and mitigate the resulting harm. We are aware that the Charlcombe Parish Council has advised that the monopole be painted green; we would advise that more innovative design solutions are considered to appropriately harmonise into longer-range views.
Ultimately, we do not feel that the prospective visual harm to the area has been fully realised. Claims made that “the proposed, taller, installation will, over time, become an accepted feature within the local environment, as is the case with the existing installation, and will not have a significant negative impact on the visual amenity of the area” demonstrates a lack of sympathetic understanding as to the value of the AONB and Green Belt, and we would further emphasise the drastic difference in height and consequent aesthetic impact between the existing monopole and its proposed replacement. The use of the floodlighting columns at the Larkhall Athletic Football Club as a replicable precedent is additionally inappropriate, and highlights the absence of effort to visually adapt the monopole to its environment.
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 establish a planning precedent for future monopole installation, and should therefore offer a more carefully considered range of designs to ensure the monopole’s visual impact on its context is suitably mitigated.
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, CP6, D2, HE1, NE2, and CP8 of the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan, and in its current form should be refused. We would strongly recommend that suitable documentation including a LVIA and alternative design options are submitted before this scheme is permitted to progress further.