It is today reported that the Development Management Committee of the Dartmoor National Park Authority has approved the application by Airband Community Internet Ltd to erect a 12 metre tele-communications mast just to the south-east of the existing television mast on North Hessary Tor.
This decision overrules the recommendation made by the planning officer. This sometimes happens, and it sometimes happens with good reason. Here, though, is a key passage from the planning officer’s recommendation:
‘It is clear that this existing structure [the television mast] could provide a technical solution however Airband has indicated that, for reasons of accessibility and commercial interests, that is not its preferred option. The necessary transmission infrastructure would be discreet on that structure and largely lost among the existing equipment if that route were to be chosen.’
In other words, the planning officer doesn’t think a new mast is necessary. The equipment needed to extend wireless broadband coverage on Dartmoor – which is necessary – could be integrated into the existing television mast.
The decision to permit the erection of the television mast was made in January 1954. It was very controversial, but the technical case for North Hessary was strong. It’s hardly surprising that this lofty and central location remains a desirable place for a mast of this sort, albeit one with a different purpose and on a smaller scale. Back then, the park authority opposed the mast, but it was too weak to resist the national requirement that television coverage be rolled out across the country. Careful efforts were made to minimise the impact of the mast on the fabric of the Tor (the full story is told in Quartz and Feldspar). Today, the authority has approved a second mast. It seems there is a viable alternative. Will an explanation be forthcoming?
The planning application and other documents can be found here.