U-turn as council’s highway team now OBJECT to controversial Marksbury phone mast

Bath & North East Somerset Council highway officers, who initially raised no objection to a proposed 20-metre high phone mast next to the A39 at Marksbury, have now changed their minds and say it would impact on road safety, just as villagers have been saying.

CK Hutchison Networks’ planning application to B&NES Council has sparked more than 120 individual objections plus a petition with more than 70 names. Several residents have highlighted  that there has been a fatality on this stretch of road.

Objectors say that drivers’ views would be impaired by the mast, its six antennas, two transmission dishes and four equipment cabinets positioned on the grass verge and would also be an eyesore in the historic village. The headteacher of the village school is among those to have raised objections.

The phone giant has said that the impact of the mast would be outweighed by the “significant” public benefit and, as we reported earlier this month, the council’s highway development control officers, having reviewed the information submitted in support of the application with colleagues from the council’s street works team, raised no objection on highway grounds.

However, after going out to visit the site with the planning case officer last Thursday, there has been a U-turn.

In a report this week, the engineer from the highway development control (HDC) team who visited the site says that recorded speeds show that on this 30mph stretch of the A39, 85% of traffic travels at or below 38mph northbound and 39mph southbound.

“Officers consider that locating the proposed 20-metre-high monopole and four cabinets within the currently unobstructed visibility splay to the right onto the A39 when exiting Winsbury View will increase the risk of a collision between motor vehicles exiting Winsbury View and motor vehicles travelling north along the A39 …. HDC officers therefore raise an objection on highway safety grounds as I consider that the equipment, especially the cabinets, will prejudice highway safety.”

Marksbury Parish Council has also highlighted concerns about road safety and the impact on the Green Belt and added that the application is incorrect in some matters of fact, such as stating that the proposed site of the mast is the other side of a hedge to school playing fields when they are actually at the opposite end of the village.

The parish council says: “This would have been easily established if a site visit had been made. In the community consultation section, it states that the parish clerk, and both headteacher and chair of governors of Marksbury Church school were emailed on 10th August. No such communication was received. The parish council feels this indicates the applicants have not properly researched the site, and casts doubt upon the accuracy of the rest of this application.”

Meanwhile residents have also commissioned a report from transport consultants Entran who highlighted safety hazards, and another report from Nicholas Pearson Associates to carry out a preliminary appraisal about landscape and visual matters which found that in the absence of any evidence to the contrary the proposed development will, and/ or has the potential to, give rise to a range of  harmful landscape and visual impacts, some which might be significant.

B&NES Council is due to make a decision on whether planning permission should be granted by 18th October.

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