A CONTROVERSIAL planning application to install a phone mast on the edge of Combe St Nicholas has divided residents in the village.

If built, the mast will be placed on land at Slade Cross, which is owned by Combe St Nicholas football club, leading to a financial boost for the club but anger from neighbours who say it will by a blot on the landscape.

The application is for the replacement of an existing 10 metre floodlight, and the installation of a 15-metre telecommunications pole, which will be for shared use by Telefonica, the company that owns mobile phone operator O2, and for Vodafone.

It is hoped the new phone mast will help boost the 2G, 3G and 4G mobile phone coverage in the area.

However, residents have reacted angrily to the plans.

Jonathan and Sally Nex are among the neighbours objecting to the application.

Jonathan said: “The proposed mast is 15m high, 50 per cent higher than the existing masts which are currently considered to be too high and an eyesore by local residents.

“The mast will further industrialise the landscape and detract from the attraction of an area on the edge on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty considered to be important to the local economy in terms of the number of tourists. The repositioning of one mast will cause the new floodlight to shine directly at our property.

Sally added: “It is hard to think of a more in-your-face place to put a mast. It will be unmissable.

“Most masts seem to be set back from all but the busiest roads to lessen the visual impact. This will be right alongside a quiet lane used mainly by pedestrians.

“The planning application document states erroneously that no properties directly overlook the site, and later that the mast is in a secluded location away from residential properties. This is quite simply untrue.

“The wall of our house will be 140 metres from the mast itself. From the windows of our house the mast will be in full view, from base station to antennae, and very obtrusive.”

Shane Babey, who also lives near the proposed development site, said: “This mast will be a blot on the landscape.

“This is a rural area where the countryside is appreciated by those that walk and some to enjoy the views which will be spoilt if this mast goes ahead.”

However, supporters say the mast will improve the mobile phone coverage in the area.

Combe St Nicholas FC currently provides three football pitches, hosting four adult teams and 12 youth teams.

Luc Logan, chairman of Combe St Nicholas FC, said: “Combe St Nicholas and the surrounding area has consistently suffered from poor telephone and data reception.

“Mobile network coverage continues to be, at best, inconsistent and unreliable. The installation of a new mast, which we believe to be sympathetic to our rural surroundings, will overcome this issue.

"As part of the scheme, the football club will receive a capital payment, the funds of which will be used to invest in infrastructure projects.”

A spokesman for the applicant, Shared Access, said: “To achieve the indoor and outdoor coverage and capacity goals set by Ofcom for 3G and 4G technology, new site locations will be required closer to population centres, as is detailed in this application proposal.

“Ofcom require 98 per cent of the British population to have access to a 4G network by the end of 2017.

“Once developed, Shared Access manage the site ensuring maintenance, health and safety and site access is kept to the highest standards and within agreements with the site provider / landlord.

“The nearest mast to the application site is situated 1.2km to the north. This is an Orange site that does not provide any coverage to either O2 or Vodafone.”

A decision on the mast will be made by South Somerset District Council on February 6.

Becky Collier, Somerset branch manager of Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “This mast cannot be considered to be merely a replacement of the existing floodlight as its appearance is markedly different and its visual impact significantly greater.

“The mast will be visible from all high points surrounding this area including the scenic viewpoints to all the way up Stoney Down, the length of the lane going up towards Combe Beacon Lane, and from right across the valley up to Barleymow by the A30.

“We believe this is in conflict with South Somerset local plan policy EQ2 which states that development should be designed to ‘preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the district’ and ‘conserve and enhance the landscape character of the area’.”