APPROVAL rates for 5G masts in the BCP region remain well below the national average.

Service provider Three UK says residents in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole “will continue not to receive improved coverage” if the situation does not change.

The council, meanwhile, insists its decision-making on such matters has been “robust”.

A Three UK spokesperson told the Echo that since the start of its BCP area upgrade programme in January 2020, it has seen 23 mast applications refused and only nine approved.

They said: “The approval rate is very much below the national average - Eastbourne, for example, has a nearly 90 per cent approval rate with only one site refused out of eight.

Bournemouth Echo:

“Since last July, there have been three refusals in BCP meaning the area will continue not to receive improved coverage.”

One of the latest mast refusals was in March when council planners rejected Three’s plan for a 19m 5G pylon in Bournemouth’s West Cliff Road after 60 infuriated residents objected.

In its reason for refusal, the council said the mast “would form an overly intrusive and visually dominant installation that would be harmful to the setting”.

Also in March, Three’s hopes of erecting a 15m mast outside St Mary’s Church in Longfleet Road were dashed after planners deduced it would “harm the significance” of the building.

Three UK previously said around £17m of investment could be made into the BCP area if its full potential for improved broadband coverage is realised.

Several providers currently have numerous live applications set for determination by the council in the Poole area. These include 15m structures proposed for Yarmouth Road, Flambard Road, Queen Ann Drive and Rempstone Road, as well as a 22.5m mast in Lower Blandford Road.

Bournemouth Echo: Prior approval application notice for 5G mast in West Cliff Road, BournemouthPrior approval application notice for 5G mast in West Cliff Road, Bournemouth (Image: Newsquest)

Icon Tower Infrastructure recently withdrew an application to build a new 30m lattice mast at Fleets Industrial Park off Willis Way.

BCP Council has said locations, where masts are rejected, are “generally not suitable in planning terms” due to their impact on the character of the area.

It also noted its decisions to refuse masts have been backed up at appeal, which it says highlights that the decision-making “has been robust”.

Most mast applications are submitted under ‘prior approval’ parameters. This legislation means if an application meets development criteria, it will be approved, unless it can be proven that there is genuine harm attached to an installation.

This includes a mast’s height in relation to surrounding land and buildings.