Vodaphone Mast Controversy - not the first time it has happened!

Residents of Croftlands estate, Ulverston, were dismayed when contractors turned up on the morning of Monday 20th November and started work on a phone mast for Vodaphone. This mast had been refused planning permission by SLDC in September because its siting went against several of their own policies. Although work stopped for the day, and all sides condemned Vodaphone’s action at the Ulverston Town Council meeting on Monday evening, it has since been made clear that the contractors are legally entitled to put up the mast. This is because SLDC officers should have notified Vodaphone of their decision within 56 days, but they only sent the notification on the 57th day. A spokesperson for SLDC apologised and said that such an error would not be repeated.

A quick look on the internet shows that this has happened in other parts of the country. For example, Harrow council as far back as 2009, Brighton and Hove council in 2016 and both Greenwich council and Malvern Hills council this year all seem to have made the same mistake, enabling Vodaphone to build masts on particular sites where there was local opposition. Most of the councils also appear to have said much the same as the SLDC spokesperson when their mistake came to light.

This begs several questions. Do planning departments across the country use the same IT systems and software which have not been updated to take into account the legislation which brought in the 56 day rule for this type of application? Why, when the first case happened, did planning departments not take note so they would be prepared for similar applications in their areas? When anyone, including Ulverston residents, can find out about these cases in a few seconds online, why did no-one at SLDC do the same and set alarm bells ringing?

It should also be noted that Croftlands residents who oppose the mast are not against improved phone reception or nimbyists. Ulverston Now understands that a much more acceptable alternative site was found for the mast. However, Vodaphone said that it was too close to houses, even though it would have been further from the nearest homes than the Croftlands mast. Some have suggested that Vodaphone meant ‘too close to expensive houses’, and believe people should draw their own conclusions about Vodaphone’s attitude to less affluent areas.

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