Emergency Ashton Gate phone mast could become permanent

A telecom company who erected a huge 30-metre high without telling residents and said it was a temporary measure using emergency powers are going to apply for planning permission to make it permanent.

People living in Ashton Gate have been told by city planners that Waldon Communications have informed them that they intend to ask to keep the 30m mast on land behind B&M bargains on the South Bristol Retail Park – which towers over back gardens in Smyth Road and Gerald Road in Ashton Gate.

The mast was erected in late November 2020 by Waldon Communications, after Ashton Gate Stadium ended its agreement to have a mobile phone mast on the roof of the stadium.

Read more: Emergency Ashton Gate phone mast is outstaying its welcome

Residents were shocked when the mast was erected, and asked the council for help to stop it, but Bristol City Council said there was nothing they could do, because Waldon were using new Government laws that allow them to erect a phone mast without permission as a temporary or emergency measure when there was going to be a drop in phone signal coverage.

Waldon were legally entitled to erect the mast without needing permission from anyone as a temporary measure for 18 months – which ran out at the end of May 2022.

Residents living on Smyth Road and Gerald Road said they have not got used to the mast, and have been counting down the months, weeks and days until it was removed. But now, after complaining to Bristol City Council that the mast was still there into June, a council planner has told them that Waldon are going to ask to keep it.

An email, seen by Bristol Live, was sent from a planning officer to residents and local councillors, broke the news that the mast was unlikely to be going anywhere any time soon.

“I have received a response (from Waldon Communications) stating that an application is being made to retain this apparatus for a further temporary period,” the planning officer told local residents. “No application has been received at the present time,” she said, adding that the council would now be considering what to do next.

If a planning application is submitted by Waldon, it would retrospective, and planning officers and councillors would have to consider whether it should be given permission and the mast allowed to stay. One issue would be that another mast would have to be put somewhere else instead.

The case in Ashton Gate is being closely followed by campaigners in Knowle and Knowle Park. There, the same company are trying to use the same emergency telecoms laws to erect a similar height phone mast in the middle of Redcatch Park, despite furious opposition to it from people who use the park or live nearby.

Dogs and their owners protest against plans for a mobile phone mast in Redcatch Park, Knowle
Dogs and their owners protest against plans for a mobile phone mast in Redcatch Park, Knowle
(Image: Hands Off Redcatch Park)

The issue in Redcatch Park has seen the city council admit that even though they own the park itself, they have limited powers to stop the telecoms company, and told campaigners that Waldon Communications warned the council it could be taken to court if it tried to stop them.

Eventually, earlier this year, city council chiefs said they would try to challenge the legal notice that a mast would be erected – and that battle is still being had with negotiations between the council and the phone mast company.

Bristol Live asked Bristol City Council about the phone mast in Ashton Gate on May 31, and is still awaiting a formal response. Bristol Live asked Waldon Communications about its plans for the mast in Ashton Gate on May 31, and is still awaiting a formal response.

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