A West Highland community is outlining its opposition to a government plan to install a network of 4G masts across its picturesque landscape.
The Knoydart Foundation has written to the Scottish and UK governments to let them know it will oppose the construction of any masts on community-owned land.
The UK Government and the country’s four largest mobile network providers are splitting the cost of a £1 billion project.
Its aim is to improve mobile coverage.
The project, called the Shared Rural Network, aims to increase Scotland’s geographical mobile coverage to 90% by 2025.
As part of this, a swathe of potential 4G mast sites have been identified across the rural Knoydart peninsula in Lochaber.
The area has a total population of around 130 people.
‘Difficult to see any benefit’ for Knoydart
The majority of the peninsula has been community-owned since 1999. It is managed on behalf of locals by the Knoydart Foundation.
Foundation ranger Finlay Greig said: “The Knoydart Foundation was contacted by [surveyors] earlier this year and we accompanied them during an on-the-ground survey of potential sites in March.
“What was instantly striking was the scale of the project and the sites being discussed for potential masts. It was difficult to see any possible benefit for the community.”
The Shared Rural Network website states that the project will provide additional coverage for 280,000 premises.
It is claimed it will offer a range of benefits to rural areas including tackling social, economic and health inequalities.
But the foundation believes that sites on Knoydart will make little dent in those figures.
Following the visit, locals learned that 11 locations were being considered.
They were told by surveyors Gateley/Hamer that at least three sites on community-owned land were likely to be pursued.
New mast has improved Knoydart coverage
One site sits close to the main village of Inverie. But the others are proposed in isolated, uninhabited glens.
Grant Holroyd, forester for the Knoydart Forest Trust, said: “There’s no justification for mobile coverage in the proposed areas where people don’t live.
“I think this is a totally unjustified waste of money and a gross unnecessary contribution to carbon emissions.”
A 4G mast recently went live on the Knoydart peninsula, installed as part of the S4GI programme.
The new mast provides EE mobile coverage across the majority of the peninsula where signal was once not available. It also improves the emergency services coverage.
When Knoydart residents learned of the plans for multiple new masts, a community consultation was distributed to gauge local opinion.
The survey received the highest return rate to date, with 104 responses showing unanimous opposition to the plans.
‘We do not want or need more masts’
Stephanie Harris is a local resident and business development manager at the community-owned pub The Old Forge.
She said: “I have been involved in many community engagement activities over the years, and the level of response we received for this consultation was the highest and most unified I have seen from our community.
“Our community has stated very clearly that we do not want or need more masts, and that position must be respected.”