Councillors have approved plans to bring 4G mobile phone coverage to the Ettrick Valley.
Cheshire-based firm WHP Telecoms is now set to erect a 30m-high 4G tower on Deephope Hill, just off the B709 road between Eskdalemuir and Ettrick.
The plans have largely been welcomed by locals concerned that the valley’s current lack of mobile phone signal is detrimental both to their quality of life and the ability of businesses there to thrive.
However, the plans have sparked nine letters of objection citing concerns over the height of the mast, its impact on the landscape and potential detrimental impact on property prices.
They are outnumbered almost threefold by the 25 letters of support sent to Scottish Borders Council’s planning department.
One supporter, Ogilvie Jackson, of Cossarshill Farmhouse, near Ettrick, appeared before the council’s planning and building standards committee on Monday, April 29, to urge councillors to support the plans.
He told the committee: “We have been lobbying very hard to get mobile coverage in the valley.
“For the last three years, our neighbours at Ettrick village have enjoyed good coverage due to government-funded masts that tower over the settlement.
“The mast before you will give us near perfect 4G coverage for the Ettrick Valley.
“The proposed site could not be better. In fact, compared to some masts in the Borders it’s very discreet.
“Many motorists have been stranded and unable to secure help because of the lack of phone signal. This mast will make our valley a safer and more self-reliant place to live.
“I would say this to the objectors – it’s easy to object to a phone mast just because you don’t like phone masts. If that happened everywhere, there would be no mobile coverage in the country.”
Councillors were advised by planning officers that the potential benefits of the mast would outweigh any negative impact.
Principal planning officer Barry Fotheringham told the committee: “The proposed mast and associated equipment form part of a national programme to deliver a new mast network and telecommunications coverage in hard-to-reach areas in Scotland that do not benefit from mobile telephone connectivity.
“The proposed mast will be visible in the landscape, but it is considered that the benefits of having a strong telecommunications signal in the Ettrick Valley outweigh the limited and localised landscape and visual impacts.
“The proposed mast will be futureproofed so that it can accommodate other users and 5G networks. This will avoid the need for a proliferation of other masts locally.
“The proposed development complies with the principal policy requirements of the local development plan and is consistent with ensuring that an improved digital infrastructure is available to ensure people and communities are better connected.”
Councillors were also in favour of granting planning permission.
East Berwickshire councillor Helen Laing said: “I have no problem with this application whatsoever. It’s time the Ettrick Valley was brought into the 21st century.
“I absolutely think this is the right decision.
Kelso councillor Simon Mountford added: “I’m delighted by this.
“In this time and age, it is unreasonable to expect communities to exist without mobile phone coverage.
“Any visual impact is completely outweighed by the economic and social benefits of allowing this application to proceed.”
Councillors voted unanimously to approve the Warrington firm’s application.