Bark in the Park is second demonstration against 24ft mast
Main image: Protesters gather with their dogs in the compound footprint where the mast will be. Picture Ben Skingley.
Members of a protest group of “angry and passionate” residents gathered with their dogs in a much-loved Knowle park at the weekend to demonstrate against the proposed siting of a 24ft mast.
Residents Against the Mast in Redcatch Park held a ‘Bark in the Park’ protest on Saturday (26 February) because they are furious about plans by EE & Hutchinson 3G UK Limited to install telecommunications equipment on a temporary basis there.
This was the second demonstration in a month and the group has also started a petition which currently has 2,445 signatures (Monday 28 February). The plans have been submitted to landowner Bristol City Council – and people have until 7 March to put in their objections.
Campaigners fear the site may become permanent and say it is not the right place for the 5g mast – which would be near a children’s play area and football pitches as well as a community centre and Redcatch Community Garden. It would take up an area of grass – and be surrounded by a 2ft concrete wall.
They have already put 5,000 leaflets through doors across the local area letting people know about the proposals for the well-used park. This week they will be delivering 5,000 more around Bedminster, Totterdown and Brislington.
“Mast needed to provide coverage for EE and Three customers”
But the mobile network operators say the temporary site, which would be for 18 months, is needed “to provide coverage” for EE and Three customers – after the loss of a permanent site at The Friendship Inn public house in Knowle.
They say they are continuing to work with Bristol City Council to identify a suitable permanent site location which will be outside the park area.
Resident Sian Ellis-Thomas who started the campaign group was one of the organisers of the two protests this month.
In the first demonstration on 6 February members marked out the area that would be taken up by the mast and highlighted it was by the side of a children’s play area – where a picture of the mast was drawn in chalk for people to see the scale of it.
“We believe …up to 100 dogs use this park and it’s their space too…”
This second demonstration on Saturday – attended by Marshall from Paw Patrol – was on behalf of dog walkers who regularly use the space – and around 50 pooches turned up with their owners and a number of children to parade around the park.
Sian told The Knowledge: ” I’ve never done anything like this before but this park was one of the reasons we chose to live here and we felt incredibly angry when we found they were going to plonk this mast in the middle of the park.
“This is called Bark in the Park because we believe anything up to 100 dogs use this park and it’s their space too. They are taking space where they exercise regularly…”
Lesley Powell who also organised the protest and started the petition said. “I volunteer in the community garden and I didn’t want them to take a chunk of our park away for something very ugly. We know we need a mast but we want it somewhere acceptable…”
“It seems a brutal act to put something so ugly in a place that’s so beautiful…”
The Rev Matt Norris from Redcatch Community Church was one of the people who joined the demonstration on Saturday.
He said: “I’ve lived and worked in this area for 12 years and it’s such a place of wellbeing and community and it seems a brutal act to put something so ugly in a place that’s so beautiful. It’s a well loved park and its becoming a centre of wellbeing, especially because of the café and the work they’ve done there, it’s become a real centre.”
Local resident Gemma Atwell says she comes here for “the nature” and feels visually the mast would impact on that.
She says: ” I come here most days to unwind and I’m worried about it near a kid’s area for health and wellbeing and also my wellbeing.”
Karen Mann who was there with her granddaughter Poppy (4) says she is worried about health and safety issues.
She says “I’m here all the time in the park with my grandchildren, I think it will change the outlook… ”
A spokesperson for MBNL which submitted the application to Bristol City Council said: “The temporary site at Redcatch Park is to provide coverage following the loss of our permanent site which was housed at The Friendship Inn public house in Knowle. The building and land was acquired by developers and meant that we needed to vacate. This has resulted in a loss of coverage for both EE and Three customers.
“We do endeavour to find permanent solutions as quickly as possible but where circumstances prevail we work with the Local Planning Authorities to deploy temporary equipment so that the network services can be maintained, and those residents and businesses that rely upon EE and Three remain connected.
“We will continue to work closely with Bristol City Council and the Planning officers, as well as the Local Community during this process.”
The mobile industry is governed by Part 16 of the General Permitted Development Order 2015 (as amended). The legislation governs the planning controls placed upon locating telecoms equipment.
Within Part 16 there is a provision to allow the installation of telecoms equipment “under an emergency for a period of 18 months”. This use of this provision is to maintain network coverage while a permanent solution is found.
Although the permission of the land owner is also required for the 18 month period there are certain allowances for telecoms operators as set out in the Electronic Communications Code 2017 (ECC) which is a set of rights “designed to facilitate the installation and maintenance of electronic communications networks.”
A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said: “This is not a council scheme and relates to a process where the council as landowner has limited powers with which to oppose the temporary mast. Despite being the landowner, there is legislation in place that limits council powers to prevent this type of work and allows telecoms operators to install their equipment (including masts) on a temporary basis.
“In this case, we have been approached by the telecoms provider to install a mast in order to prevent loss of service or network disruption following the impending loss of an existing site. In their proposal to the council, the provider has made it clear that they will seek a court order if needed to carry out this work. We continue to seek expert legal and telecoms advice and the telecoms operator has been asked to justify their use of these emergency powers.”
Deadline for objections
The deadline for letters of objection to Bristol City Council is Monday 7 March and so far around 195 have been submitted. The Residents Against the Mast group has provided a template to download on its website or paper copies can be picked up at Redcatch Community Garden.
The campaigners are also hoping for 3,500 signatures on their petition which representatives will present to the full council meeting on 15 March. They say they may need to keep the pressure on EE H3G should they choose to take the matter further and fight the ruling in court.
Both the letter template and the petition can also be accessed at: https://www.residentsagainstthemast.com/how-to-object