No progress on Norham phone mast

Northumberland County Council is demanding an explanation as to why a much-vaunted scheme to boost mobile phone coverage in the county has fallen spectacularly short.

Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 2:12 pm
Updated Saturday, 5th March 2016, 9:06 am

The council is also calling on the area’s MPs to investigate the project that was supposed to deliver better mobile phone coverage for 20 communities in the county.

But so far, of the installations that had been expected through the Government’s Mobile Infrastructure Project, only two masts are expected to be operational before the end of the project on 31st March.

Arqiva were commissioned by the Department for Culture Media and Sport and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) to deliver the project, which was allocated £15 0million nationally to install mobile phone infrastructure.

Northumberland County Council has been told by Arqiva that it will only deliver two of the 20 sites proposed for Northumberland.

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A letter is now being sent from the council to all Northumberland MPs which has the support of all political groups on the council – with councillors from all political parties concerned about this issue, and keen to have it looked into.

Councillor Dave Ledger, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council said: “To say we are disappointed with this project is an understatement.

“We understood that there were 20 masts proposed for Northumberland at the start of the programme, all of which had support from the three main mobile phone operators.

“As well as the two that Arqiva have said that they will deliver, we are aware that a further three masts achieved full planning approval but are not being taken forward. No explanation has been provided for this.

“It seems ridiculous that in the 21st Century we are going to be left with huge areas which have frankly pathetic mobile phone coverage. We know from frustrated residents and even our own staff how difficult a lack of good reception can be.

“We are calling on our MPs to look into this on behalf of Northumberland residents, to find out the current position regarding where the funding was spent or directed to, and what is planned for the future.”

The two masts that Arqiva have said they will complete by 31st March are land near Hagwood Farm near Hexham and land by Ewesley Farm Cottage, Ewesley.

The sites that have gained planning permission but which they have said that they are unable to progress are near Gilsland, Scots Gap and Norham.