'Nothing we can do' to fight masts plan
DESPITE a "robust" fight by a local MP and community leaders, plans to build two communication masts along the picturesque River Fowey look set to go ahead.
Sheryll Murray, Conservative MP for South East Cornwall, described the two masts – an installation deemed necessary by Network Rail to make the Lostwithiel-Fowey branch line safer – as "pointless".
The branch line does not carry passengers and is used for only two freight journeys each day.
Mrs Murray said: "I spoke to the Department of Transport Minister, Theresa Villiers, during her visit to Cornwall and have had a robust exchange by correspondence since.
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"Unfortunately, at this time, I have not been able to convince the Minister or her staff of the lack of need or the damage these masts will do to what is such a beautiful area."
In the wake of the Cullen Report into the Ladbroke Grove train accident in which 31 people died, Network Rail is attempting to increase the safety, reliability and punctuality of services nationwide. The proposed sites for the masts, which will be 15 and 29 metres high, is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). However, Network Rail does not require planning permission due to Permitted Development Rights, which exist in the interest of maintaining and improving rail safety.
The legislature is passed down from the European courts, and applies to all lines throughout the UK. The work is due to begin in September this year.
Fowey mayor John Berryman was resigned to the outcome. "There is nothing we can do," he said.
Gavin Shakerley, Cornwall Councillor for Lostwithiel, said: "I'm satisfied that everyone locally has done their best. Politically we have gone as high as we can.
"Network Rail has Permitted Development Rights, which they insist on exercising.
"It would be understandable if it were a busy line, but it's a non-passenger service.
"It will visually harm the river, which is a great shame."
Network Rail have made concessions over the size and style of the towers, and dialogue has been opened concerning how best to camouflage the towers to "minimise visual intrusion".
Mr Shakerley added: "They have consulted with us, for which we are grateful."
Sally Bain, Cornwall councillor for Fowey, said the masts would be painted as "dark olive.
"We hope and pray that they will disappear among the foliage," she said.
Michael Bruton, former chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), and founder of Cornwallprotect.org, was instrumental in the successful campaign against a mast installation in the Looe Valley.
He said: "Developers have to take into account minimising the impact on the AONBs.
"There is no need to wreck Cornwall's most fantastic asset – its beauty."
Sheryll Murray was also involved in the Looe Valley success. However, according to Councillor Shakerley, "there are very different circumstances on the Fowey line ... we have looked into every detail," he said.