Residents say lines crossed on masts

About 100 residents turned out last night to voice their opposition to controversial plans to erect giant railway communication masts.

Steve Gibbon

About 100 residents turned out last night to voice their opposition to controversial plans to erect giant railway communication masts.

Network Rail is planning to put up five of the 29-metre masts along the Newcastle to Cumbria line in Tynedale, and last night people living in affected areas met to voice their concerns.

A packed hall at Henshaw First School, Northumberland, first heard from Bardon Mill resident Steve Gibbon, who has led the fight against the development.

He said: "The purpose of tonight is to drum up public support. It is our first public meeting and most people will still be unaware of what exactly is happening.

"We will be deciding on what the next steps are, with the most important part of tonight about electing an action group that can move the community forward."

The group, provisionally named South Tynedale Objection to Railway Masts, has already set up a website informing people about the development and advising people on how they can object.

During an open forum at last night's meeting, Mr Gibbon admitted that there was an element of "Nimbyism" to the objections, but most people agreed that more discussion was needed with Network Rail to find more suitable positions for the mast.

Another speaker was Robert Allcock, who lives in Low Shilford, close to Riding Mill, where one of the masts is due to be put up.

He said that in principle the masts were a good thing because they brought an improved safety system that allows trains to communicate through a central computer.

But he added: "But 29 metres is excessive and ridiculous and they have tried to shoehorn them into a general permitted development.

"It is an insane way to proceed." Under current regulations, Network Rail does not have to receive planning permission for the masts, but simply has to notify the relevant authorities of the developments.

Dr Allcock added that the masts were very similar to those used by mobile phone companies, which do require planning permission.

Work on the masts had been due to start this month, but was delayed in Tynedale by the Government-run company after pressure from residents.

At last night's meeting Mr Gibbon thanked Helen Winter, director of planning at Tynedale Council, for her help in getting Network Rail to review the Tynedale plans.

Those attending the meeting were also able to sign a petition opposing the masts.

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