A RURAL community is in tumult over plans to install a 25-metre high telephone mast on an 'unspoilt' felltop.

Planning permission is being sought by Cornerstone, a telecommunications company, to construct the tower on Barbon Low Fell, close to the villages of Barbon and Casterton.

Justification is given that the area without the tower 'will remain in the technological dark ages with no access to high quality 4G service provision, so the opportunity to improve growth in the rural economy, support the important agricultural economy and improve the quality of life for the residents will be lost.'

Charity organisation Friends of the Dales commented: "The proposed mast will be placed in a very prominent, isolated and high part of Barbon Fell, which is entirely open and completely unspoilt. 

"It would set a dreadful precedent for both Barbon Fell and other such fell tops.

"It is worth questioning the need for such a mast at all. 

In Cumbria: The fell without the mastThe fell without the mast

"The maps showing 4G coverage with and without the mast show clearly that no dwellings are affected, just a small section of the road higher up Barbondale and a large tract of empty moorland. 

"As for the prevalent B4RN (broadband) service, it is considered to be excellent: the speed is very good, with virtually no problems since its installation."

A comment from a resident of nearby Dent village said: "There is no need for this mast on a local or resident level. 

"We are well served - I drive across the length of Barbondale every day and have an EE signal and a BT signal on two phones for 70 per cent of the distance. 

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"I took a colleague from Dartmoor recently up to Bullpot and higher who marvelled at the landscape.

"He also successfully consulted his phone for maps via Vodafone. 

"We are already well served - so are visitors like him.

"Its metallic plus symbolic nature urbanises the landscape in one swift move. 

"The eye will never leave it and constantly wait for its re-appearance. 

"People come here precisely because such structures do not exist."

In Cumbria: Walkers on Barbon Low FellWalkers on Barbon Low Fell

The mast, designed to serve the Vodafone, Three, and Telefonica networks, would also require an access road to it, built onto the fellside. And this has raised more concerns from Friends of the Dales.

"This track, whilst limited to wheel tracks, winds its way up the exposed hillside in a sequence of zigzags," they said.

"The underlying terrain will of necessity involve considerable cut-and-fill to create a steady incline and several hairpin bends. 

"This will no doubt involve digging into peat, thus opening it up to oxidation and wind and water erosion. 

"The creation of a winding track up the hillside will also be visually very intrusive."

Chair of Barbon Parish Council Councillor Roger Groves said: "As a council, our biggest annoyance was that we were not officially consulted at all, whereas Casterton was, and technically, the site is on the Casterton side, but very close to our boundary. 

"The artist's impressions of the mast might be very misleading, as it is made out that the mast will be hidden by undulations, but if that was the case then the mast would surely be rendered useless.

"From what I can tell, it is more to provide service to Dent and that side - I don't think it would be too visible from Barbon village, but it certainly would be if you're up in the fells."

A further comment from a resident in Sedbergh said: "Once built, the mast will be visible from miles away in all directions, and will desecrate forever this hitherto magnificent landscape, the Lune Valley."

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