WFS Telecom: National Park Project
With the UK striving to become a world leader in the next generation of mobile communication, telecoms infrastructure has seen a planning overhaul in recent years. Changes in the Permitted Development Rights has increased the size of mast that no longer requires planning permission. The government has an ambitious target of reaching 98% of premises with superfast broadband by 2020. As part of this strategy, connectivity using 3 and 4G is becoming an ever-more important part of the economy.
However, connecting more people to the network is not without its challenges. Increasing pressure to allow rural communities the same access to highspeed broadband and consistent mobile phone coverage is leading to masts being required in ever-more remote and sensitive locations.
Despite the changes in planning regulations development in protected areas, such as National Parks, remains tightly controlled.
It was within Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park where WFS Telecom required the specialist Landscape services of Cogeo to support the planning application for a 24m telecoms mast overlooking Loch Ard.
Approach & Solutions
Working on behalf of Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Limited (CTIL), WFS Telecom applied for planning permission for a 24m mast at Ledard Farm, Kinlochard. The site sits adjacent to the Core Path leading to the summit of Ben Venue and the National Park Authority had concerns over the visual impact of the new mobile mast and the inter-visibility with a recently developed hydroelectric scheme.
With visual amenity being such an essential part of the draw for these nationally important and unique landscapes, all development must be of a sustainable design. Concerns over the potential impact on the area surrounding Loch Ard led to the Natural Heritage Planning Officer requesting a Landscape Appraisal to fully assess the scheme.
Cogeo provided two Zone of Theoretical Visibility (ZTV) maps showing the potential visibility of the new mast. One ZTV shows the extent of the mast as a ‘bare-earth’ with nothing considered but terrain as worst-case scenario showing the maximum possible impact of the project. The second specialist ZTV considered the reduced visibility due to the woodland which is a dominant feature of the landscape. The ZTVs provided the basis for the site visits and assessment work conducted in line with the Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (third edition) to provide a robust assessment of the impacts. A Landscape Appraisal of the baseline character of the landscape and potential impacts of the construction of the mast were carried out by Cogeo’s Landscape team.
Despite the Landscape Appraisal identifying that there would be some significant localised effect on the character of the landscape, overall the impact was deemed to be acceptable and planning permission was granted on the 18th of January 2018.
The conditions attached to the consent require the appointment of an Environmental Clerk of Works to oversee the installation of a Landscape Management Plan. This was required “to ensure that mitigation and enhancement measures set out in the Landscape and Visual Appraisal (Cogeo, December 2017) …are followed during construction and to minimise landscape and visual intrusion from the development”.
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