'The lack of assessment regarding the long term economic significance is appalling' says Manea parish clerk in angry letter to Fenland Council over phone mast plans
A decision by a 'junior' planning officer to refuse permission for a telephone mast to be put up in Manea has been heavily criticised by the parish council.
Manea Parish Council's clerk Alan Melton has written a furious letter to Fenland District Council over the decision, which has only just come to light, with him describing the rejection as "frustrating" and criticising the lack of consultation.
The village councillors are now urging the applicants, Cornerstone and Telefonica UK Ltd, to appeal the decision.
Mr Melton said: "There is not a single parish council meeting goes by when someone does not ask about when the phone signal is going to be improved for the village. Everyone who lives in Manea knows it is a 'black hole' when it comes to using a mobile phone.
"This decision should never have been left to a junior planning officer to make. Manea is a growing village and the lack of phone signal is a major concern."
Mr Melton, a former Fenland Council leader added: "When something this important came up when I was leader it would automatically be discussed with either myself, or the relevant portfolio holder before any decision was taken, especially when it was something that has an economic impact and also had long term economic significance.
"This mast would be very powerful and would not only have benefited the village but also Stonea and Christchurch and the surrounding farms."
In his letter Mr Melton wrote: "Your reasons for refusal are the impact on the area and the surrounding trees. May I point out, that there was never any intention to damage the trees and steps could and would be taken to mitigate the possibility of any damage to the tree roots. Anyone with a knowledge of construction would know that."
The idea was to erect the 20m mast close to the trees fronting the village cemetery opposite Manea playing field. The trees would have helped to disguise the mast, which Mr Melton also said was vital if Manea was to take advantage of plans to extend the district's CCTV monitoring service into the village and in particular around the playing field where a new skate park is planned.
He wrote: "As we own the cemetery, we could take steps to lessen the impact. However, our main complaint is that there doesn't seem to have been any serious discussion about the connectivity and the economic impact on the surrounding area.
"In Manea, there is no signal for 3 or 4G communications. Manea is a 'Growth Settlement' and is likely to remain so.
"The lack of assessment regarding the long term economic significance is appalling and the lack of consultation with the economic portfolio holder or elected members is also appalling.
"This application should never have been dealt with by a planning officer under delegated powers. I have written to Telefonica UK, urging them to appeal and request under the 'free go' to re-submit the application. You will then have the opportunity to debate this with members through the democratic process."
More by this authorSarah Cliss