Monday 23 January 2023

Prior planning permission for 20m mobile mast in Willesden Green refused - visually intrusive and physically obtrusive


Where the 20m pole and associated cabinets would have been sited (corner of Walm Lane and Dartmouth Road)


In a blog post on January 3rd Wembley Matters drew attention to a proposal for a 20metre phone mast and associated cabinets to be built on the corner of Walm Lane and Dartmouth Road, outside Westly Court and adjacent to the Queensbury pub in Willesden Green. There were only a few comments at the time and due to be closed on January 12th but eventually there were 26 objections including from Mapesbury Residents' Association. There were only two supportive submissions.


The final delegated report made on January 17th echoed many of the points made by objectors.


The decision


1 The proposed telecommunications street pole and associated cabinets by reason of their height, bulk, appearance and siting would be overly prominent and visually intrusive within the street scene adding additional clutter to a prominent location. Furthermore, the proposal would result in harm to the character, appearance and setting of the surrounding conservation area and listed buildings. This would cause unacceptable harm to the visual amenity of the area in conflict with Condition A.3 of Schedule 2, Part 16, Class A of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (as amended).

2 The proposed telecommunications street pole and associated cabinets by reason of their siting would create an obtrusion to the footway by reducing the available footway width and severely affecting pedestrian movement and overall safety. This is contrary to Condition A.3 of Schedule 2, Part 16, Class A of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (as amended).

 The delegated report describes some of the issues:



The application is for prior approval for a 5G telecommunications installation comprising a 20m street pole and additional equipment cabinets on the footpath adjacent to Westly Court on Walm Lane. The equipment cabinets are proposed to be located at the base of the new pole and all of the equipment is proposed to be placed in the middle of the footway. The site is located close to the road junction with Dartmouth Road, which means there are several open views from different angles in the streetscene. This would give the proposal a particularly prominent siting and be at odds with where telecoms and other equipment is generally located.

Highway considerations

The proposed 20m high pole and three cabinets would be 4m from the edge of the carriageway and 4m from the back of the footway. All of the equipment is proposed in the middle of the footway which would add lot of clutter to the footway and a nuisance to pedestrians. In addition to this, there is an existing cabinet at the back of the footway which would mean that only a 2.2m wide footway is retained between the existing cabinets and the proposed new cabinets.

It appears that the doors of the cabinets would open away from the carriageway, although it is not clear. This would further clutter the middle of the footway and force pedestrians to walk closer to the carriageway. This siting would be inappropriate generally and pose a significant obstruction in an area which has been highlighted by objectors as being busy with a high number of pedestrian. In addition the proposal would be poorly sited create a safety risk for visually impaired pedestrians.

The proposals will not obstruct visibility for vehicles at this junction as it is set back 4m from the edge of the carriageway.

Therefore, the siting is considered to be unacceptable


Heritage and Design

In addition to the location on the footway noted above, page 2 of the ‘Site Specific Supplementary Information’ states that the proposal is outside the Conservation Area, which is incorrect. The site is located within the Mapesbury Conservation Area.


There are also several designated heritage assets in the area, which would need to be taken into account.

No heritage statement has been submitted with this application to describe the significance of the heritage assets or the Conservation Area and to understand the potential impact of the proposal.

It is clear that the position of the new pole would be obtrusive and prominent in the streetscene. The new pole would be seen directly in the context and on the edge of the Mapesbury Conservation Area. It would also be seen in the eyeline of the bell tower of St Gabriel’s Church, which is Grade II listed and one of the most significant buildings in the conservation area. Even with the treelined street (acting as a foil in summer) it would stand out in views from within the conservation area and along its attractive boundary. Furthermore, the trees cannot be replied upon as a permanent screen.

There is lessor impact on the Willesden Green Conservation Area and the Underground Station (listed Grade II), but it will impact a view from Dartmouth Road.

The equipment cabinets would be located in the middle of the pavement. It should be noted that there are existing cabinets on the edge of the footway, lampposts, signage a litter bin and other features in close proximity to the proposal. Although the existing items are generally positioned more discretely, the proposal in the centre of these items would be very cluttered, prominent, unattractive and would detract from the beauty of the area.

Overall, it is considered that the proposed mast and cabinets will cause harm to the significance of the Mapesbury Conservation Area and great weight should be given to the asset’s conservation. The proposal would fail to preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the Conservation Area. Being viewed both looking into and out of the Conservation Area, the proposal would impact on its setting and the setting of the attractive buildings and listed buildings. The proposal would result in 'less than substantial harm' to the heritage assets (Conservation Area and Listed buildings) When considered against the requirements of the NPPF. The prominence, out of place appearance and the surrounding views from several public and private vantage points, would result in the proposal having a moderate to high impact on a scale of 'less than substantial harm'.

There is no evidence or clear convincing justification that another location outside the conservation area has been considered that would diminish the impact. It has been noted that the proposal would result in technological improvement for the public, however, the public benefits would be clearly outweighed by the harm that the proposal would result in on the character and appearance of the site and its surroundings, including the Conservation Area and the nearby Listed Buildings



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