CONTROVERSIAL: Leader’s warning to 5G mast operators
Developers have been accused of trying to save money with some of the controversial choices of location for new 5G masts in Solihull.
Council leader Ian Courts said he was concerned certain applications were being “plonked” on some prominent pieces of public land because other less conspicuous sites would be more expensive.
He revealed he had now raised the issue with Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick and warned Solihull would be willing to stand up to telecom operators suspected of taking the easier or less costly option.
“We need masts, but we need them in the right locations,” Cllr Courts told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).
“Some operators are not trying hard enough to find them.
“It’s cheaper for them and more profitable for them [to use certain sites] and as far as I’m concerned I’m taking them on.”
His intervention comes following a number of high-profile battles over plans to erect the masts, which often dwarf nearby trees and homes, in different parts of the borough.
Some, including a proposal for Streetsbrook Road last week, have been approved after Solihull’s planning committee was persuaded other options had been exhausted.
Although in other cases, councillors have not been convinced alternatives elsewhere in the vicinity had been properly explored.
Cllr Courts said further controversies were expected as yet more schemes made their way through the planning process.
“Don’t get me wrong, I want 5G and we are going to get masts to deliver it.
“But what I’m saying is they need to be in far more appropriate locations.”
He said that operators who would make “a tonne of money” from improved coverage needed to be willing to part with more sizeable sums during the planning process if that meant a better result for the community.
The 5G roll-out is seen as critical to delivering the next generation of masts, with the council’s own planning officers arguing it will “enable an unprecedented leap in the capabilities of electronic communications.”
Technologies set to benefit from improved speeds could include “connected ambulances” – allowing on-board paramedics to video-conference with specialists back at hospitals – and live-streaming of bus CCTV footage.
Although the arrival of masts to support the network was always set to be contentious.
At a briefing of borough councillors some 18 months ago, members of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) admitted the new monopoles – which typically stand at around 20 metres – would be taller than what had gone before.
Words: David Irwin, Local Democracy Reporter
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