Edinburgh Castle view Johnston Terrace 5G mast application receives 160 objections

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Plans for mast at Edinburgh tourist hotspot criticised by city conservation group

Residents have spoken out over plans to build a 17 metre high 5G mast in the city centre – raising concerns it would ‘spoil’ the iconic view of Edinburgh Castle from the Grassmarket.

The planning application by mobile network Three UK is for a slim-line monopole includes six supporting antennas and equipment cabinets on the pavement, situated 30 meters west from 27 Johnston Terrace. There have been 160 objections so far to these plans at the World Heritage site of Edinburgh’s Old Town, and seven notes of support. The mast would be placed at the top of the steps from the Grassmarket to Johnston Terrace, directly in the line of sight of Edinburgh Castle from the Grassmarket, where tourists are often spotted taking photos of the world-famous visitor attraction. However, Three UK has defended its plans and said the mast will not spoil the view.

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Terry Levinthal is director of the Edinburgh-based Cockburn Association, Scotland's oldest conservation charity. He believes the application should be objected due to the impact it would have on this conservation area. He said: “Our principal objections are due to the visual and aesthetic impact to the conservation area which is the reason that has resulted in the refusal of other 5G masts in the city. Most notably in Morningside and at Whitehouse Loan, due to the visual and character impact on the conservation area.

The stunning view of Edinburgh Castle from the Grassmarket is a a favourite spot for tourists taking photos.The stunning view of Edinburgh Castle from the Grassmarket is a a favourite spot for tourists taking photos.
The stunning view of Edinburgh Castle from the Grassmarket is a a favourite spot for tourists taking photos.

"We accept the necessity of the roll out of 5G equipment as we all use mobile phones, but we also need to respect the heritage of the city. In previous years there were more consultations and discussions before applications were submitted, but it seems that now they are just lobbing in planning applications and everybody has to react, whether that be local community groups or conservation groups like ourselves.”

Terry suggested that mobile networks consider using more “sensitive” methods for extending 5G coverage in Edinburgh city centre. He said: “There are more sensitive ways of doing it. We do think that if the council continues as it has done in refusing these applications then applicants need to look at maybe attaching these masts to existing buildings or lampposts. There is no need for this applicant to put a big intrusive pillar in this place. They could have maybe used an existing lamppost.”

A Three UK spokesperson said: “The high footfall at this popular tourist destination means that the extra capacity provided by our 5G rollout is vital for residents, visitors and businesses of Johnston Terrace. We want to offer the community a reliable network experience and this site will be critical to making that happen.

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“Masts need to be situated where people will be using the service and, in many cases, in precise locations to ensure the widest breadth of coverage. We carry out extensive searches and evaluate a wide range of options before submitting any planning applications and we are sure that both visitors and locals will still be able to enjoy clear views of Edinburgh Castle.”