Councillors, locals, and the applicants have endorsed Bridge House as a preferable optionKeith Edkins/Geograph

Waldon Telecom has submitted a planning application (24/02) for telecoms equipment to be installed atop Bridge House at 13-14 Round Church Street.

If permitted, this could provide an alternative to the proposed 30-metre phone mast on Jesus Green for which the company submitted plans in December 2020. This was an emergency plan to ensure continued coverage as the current mast is on Park Street car park, which is due to be demolished from the autumn of 2021.

The Jesus Green proposition had been met with a great deal of criticism from local councillors and the local community, with the ‘Stop the Jesus Green Mast’ petition currently holding over 2,100 signatures (as of 28/02).

Labour Councillor Katie Thornburrow, Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Open Spaces, welcomed the new application “for a permanent new site”. She expects the application to be assessed within eight weeks, which means that “if approved they will be able to install equipment before dismantling the Park Street car park antennas, in which case there will be no need for a mast on Jesus Green.”

The council has said it too is against a temporary mast being located in the city centre park, but claims it does not have the authority to block the plans, and that it has contractual obligations associated with the planned timeline for redeveloping the car park.

The Council claims that it does not have the authority to block the proposal for a mast on Jesus Green, but Thornburrow nonetheless seems hopeful about the outcome, saying she thinks it “will be one that we will all be happy with.”

The Labour-majority city council had previously stated their opposition to the original plans for the temporary mast on Jesus Green. In a press release, Thornburrow stated : “Labour councillors are totally opposed to relocating the mast to Jesus Green”. However, the council’s “options are severely limited by national legislation”, referring to permitted development rights which mean phone networks can build equipment without council permission.

The Lib Dems, who set up the petition against the mast, staunchly opposed the emergency plans. Councillor Katie Porrer criticised the council’s lack of foresight with their own planned development of Par Street car park, saying in a press release “it’s clear the council has simply not treated the phone antenna on top [of the car park] as a serious issue.”

Local groups including The Park Street Residents’ Association and The Jesus Green Association also opposed the location on Jesus Green, citing concerns that the mast would threaten the nature of the park, which is accredited with a Green Flag Award.

Council leader Lewis Herbert suggested that the new application by Waldron Telecom was submitted to correct the “errors” of the previous proposal, and argued for the benefits of the Bridge House location which would “save them [Waldron Telecom] money as well as save them public face if they don’t pursue this emergency power”.

Planning permission for the site was originally requested in May 2020, but rejected in November 2020. An ‘Industry Site Specific Supplementary Information’ report states that “the identification of Bridge House should be considered a success.”

It continued: “The proposed development will not only enhance the existing coverage, but also minimise any significant harm on the nearby heritage assets. The applicant has taken this into consideration and wishes to proceed with a reduced level of equipment to ensure that any impact on nearby heritage assets is minimised as far as practicable”.


Mountain View

Plans for 30 metre phone mast on Jesus Green met with opposition

The ‘Industry Site Specific Supplementary Information’ report submitted with the application states that the antenna would extend the height at the top of the building by only 6.05 metres, instead of the 30-metre mast at ground level which would be placed on Jesus Green. The design is more similar to that currently installed on the car park.

Included in the new application is a “future-proofing element”, allowing for future 5G coverage from this location as it is rolled out across the UK. Government guidance in the National Planning Policy Framework states that Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) “should support the expansion of electronic communications networks, including next generation mobile technology (such as 5G)”.

The 5G potential of the equipment is listed in a ‘5G and Future Technology’ document from Greater Cambridge Shared Planning, submitted alongside the application, as the reason the apparatus needs to be placed higher on the roof due to “a far more complex radio requirement” and it being “affected far more than existing systems by surrounding obstructions and structures.”

If this most recent planning application is not granted, Waldron Telecom have made it clear in their ‘Supplementary Information’ that they would use the Jesus Green site as a temporary, emergency measure.