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Celebrations all round for Hightown residents as phone company’s mast appeal is rejected

Hightown residents have popped the bubbly and are finally celebrating after a planning inspector declined a mobile phone company's appeal to erect a 70-ft phone mast in the village green.

Sefton Council rejected the application by Vodafone in February to erect the mast at the BT exchange on the village green, a decision which the company appealed against via the Planning Inspectorate. At the end of October, the inspectorate dismissed the appeal and upheld the council's original unanimous decision.

MP Bill Esterson, who supported the residents' campaign, welcomed the decision. He said: “This is a real victory for local campaigners in Hightown. “It was vitally important that Sefton Council and the Planning Inspectorate listened to the concerns raised, and I congratulate them on their success.”

Bill went on to say: "I met with Vodafone today, 7th November, and asked them to consider putting the mast on the Altcar MOD facility."

This is what the mast would have looked like if erected (Artists impression)

More than 500 residents submitted objections to the original plans and a further 200 letters of objection were submitted against the appeal by local residents, who raised objections about the visual impact of the mast in the village, which has protected status.

The residents, who formed the Hightown Heritage Residents Group to fight the application, also raised potential health concerns about the long-term effects of living close to the mast and suggested that a more rural loca- tion would be more suitable, either next to the mast sited by rival company EE near the Pheasant pub or on the Chanty Hill in the middle of the Altcar army base. Both of these site are owned by landowners who were agreeable to the siting of the Vodafone mast on their land.

The group argue that as the area is not densely populated or built-up, masts do not need to be sited within 500 metres of users' homes in the mile-long village – unlike those installed in cities.

A long line of champagne glasses on the village green bench after the celebrations - Photo by Ted Careless

A spokesperson from the Hightown Heritage residents group said: “Earlier this year Sefton Council unanimously and correctly rejected this monster mast and listened to the concerns of more than 500 Hightown residents. However Vodafone were determined to get this oversized mast at the BT site in our Protected Status historic village green as it is the cheapest and most convenient location and appealed against the decision."

“They caused residents a lot of unnecessary stress and hard work over the last 11 months by trying to erect a 70 foot monster mast over our village green, surrounded by houses and children playing. Vodafone claimed the alternative sites suggested were too far away to give Hightown improved coverage, despite the fact that EE, who took a more ethical approach, are providing the village with 4G coverage from this mast on the outskirts of the village!"

“Independent telecoms experts and engineers confirmed that coverage would easily be achievable from a similar size mast at either of the two alternative sites we proposed! “We are thrilled that common sense has prevailed and the right decision has been upheld! This is a true David and Goliath story.”

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