Signal that 4G mast at Berneray may not be universally welcomed

A photomontage of how the mast will look on the proposed site.
A photomontage of how the mast will look on the proposed site.

Is the price of progress sometimes too high? That is the question facing the residents of a scenic spot in Berneray, where a move to site a 20 metre-high telecoms mast at Backhill to provide a 4G signal in the area, is being proposed.

One of those concerned about the impact of the mast is Fiona Fawcett, who lives near Berneray harbour and is concerned about the lack of consultation with the community in regards to the planning proposal.

The proposal was submitted to Comhairle nan Eilean’s planning department in late February and notices to inform locals were placed in the local press and in the harbour area near to where the mast will be sited.

However, Fiona is concerned that despite this correct and timely notification, many locals remained in the dark about proposal and, in fact, feel blindsided by the move.

The deadline for objections to this planning move are looming, but the local Community Council will only be discussing the matter tonight (Monday, June 24th). To date six objections to the mast have been submitted to the Comhairle’s planning department.

But, it is a perceived lack of urgency from the community body over the matter which has upset Fiona, who first became aware of the mast after spotting the planning notice sited in the harbour area near her home.

Until that point she was unaware of the development, and says that many of her neighbours were also unaware, until she alerted them to the situation.

Fiona is concerned about the proposed erection of the 20 metre mast - in what she describes as a ‘residential area’ - due to the possibility of noise pollution from wind whistling off the 4G pillar at the exposed location, and she also pointed to the area’s wildlife, questioning whether any regard had been given to the seal colony in the bay or rare birdlife.

She told the Gazette: “The Council have done everything right by advertising the plan and putting a notice up, so the fact that no one knew about this is not their fault, but I think the Community Council should have been canvassing people in the area about their thoughts on the matter which hasn’t happened.”

Fiona took matters into her own hands to inform the local community by canvassing the 20 households in the area and revealed that only the residents of two of these homes were aware of the proposed mast.

She added: “They (the Community Council) will be discussing it tonight, but only because I insisted that the matter was put on the agenda.”

Fiona, who has already lodged an objection to the proposal, hopes that other Berneray residents will also submit objections before it is too late.

“Many want a good 4G signal, but feel the impact of this mast is too high,” explained Fiona, continuing: “It should be located where it will do most good for the least harm, away from human life, protected wildlife species and one of the most scenic areas of the Island.

“In essence I believe an issue of such seriousness and long term impact needs debating in a democratic open forum, where both sides of the argument can be heard and judged, in order to settle on a consensus view.”

The Community Council were asked to respond to the points raised in this story, but said they would only offer comment after tonight’s meeting.

If you would like to find out more about the proposed mast at Backhill, Berneray please see the Council’s public access service at: http://planning.cne-siar.gov.uk/PublicAccess/

The Application Reference for the proposal is: 19/00106/FULTEL.

Objections to the mast can also be made via the public access service or via email at: planning@cne-siar.gov.uk