Residents smarting as new mast appears in Minard

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It was only when workers arrived on site that Minard residents realised a 10-metre (32 foot) steel mast was going up in their midst.

The mast is part of a UK Government intitiative to introduce smart energy meters across the country, but the people of Minard claim they knew nothing about it before work started on July 2.

Allan MacDougall lives across the road and spotted the contractors while working from home under lockdown. He said: ‘I thought they were repairing potholes on the A83.

‘I didn’t take any further notice until I went for a break and was amazed at what I saw. A 10 metre mast had been erected across from the house, intruding on one of the area’s most beautiful views across Loch Fyne.’

Mr MacDougall says neither he nor his neighbours were consulted beforehand.

The Minard mast is one of around 40 installed in Argyll and Bute by contractor Arqiva on behalf of main contractor Smart DCC. The masts provide a link between smart meters installed in homes and the energy companies in a bid to improve energy use efficiency.

An Arqiva spokesperson said: ‘The wireless network for smart metering uses existing infrastructure where possible, but some new masts need to be built to ensure virtually all energy consumers and businesses in Scotland will reap the benefits.

‘Whenever new masts are needed, we adhere to the full planning process.’

Planning is controlled by the local authority and an Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson said: ‘The contractor Arqiva, as an electronic communications code operator, will use permitted development rights set out under Class 67 of Part 20 of Schedule 1 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992, as amended.

‘In some cases, as at Minard, the installation of apparatus will not trigger a specific requirement for planning permission.

‘There are no buildings within 20 metres of the development so, as per national guidelines, there is no requirement for neighbour notification.’

The community council was informed of the proposed development in December 2019 and, after discussion and a site meeting, members agreed that as this was a government initiative and the structure was of a small scale it had no objections to the application.

West Loch Fyne Community Council convener Fred Bruce explained: ‘No comments were received by the community council from any Minard residents. It was our understanding all parties near the proposed site would receive statutory notification from the local authority. As no comments were made to the community council we made no adverse comment to planning re same.’

He added: ‘Having visited the site we do not see there is any serious visual impact on the area. Some residents in Minard have driven through and were unaware it was there.’

Mid Argyll councillors Sandy Taylor and Dougie Philand have, however, called for communication to be improved between developers and residents.

Councillor Taylor told the Advertiser: ‘I am pleased to support the community as they assert their right to meaningful engagement by prospective developers and the relocation of the mast and have written to the company expressing my concerns for direct engagement with residents affected by developments of this type.’

‘I was not made aware of the proposal until I was contacted by dissatisfied residents when the decision had been taken,’ added Councillor Philand.

‘I believe the siting of the mast was insensitive and not to consult withaffected residents was wrong.

‘It seems typical of large companies, doing what they want irrespective of what local opinion is.’