Stac Pollaidh escapes march of the masts

A COMMUNICATIONS company has bowed to pressure and dropped plans to erect a mast on a popular Highland mountain.

A row erupted earlier this year when Berkshire-based 02 Airwave revealed its intention to put a 26ft mast and digital communications network on Stac Pollaidh, in the Inverpolly Special Area of Conservation, north of Ullapool.

The 2,007ft mountain, whose name means "peak of the peat moss", is a well known landmark and an icon for thousands of hill walkers. Adding to the controversy was that the plans involve TETRA technology. Terrestrial Trunked Radio has been the focus of extensive research, amid fears that it affects brain functions.

The outcry forced a re-think by the company which has now earmarked another site at Loch Cul Dromannan, a mile south of Drumrunie on the A835 Ullapool-Ledmore road.

The new site is set among trees and the central six-metre steel pole will be finished with timber effect cladding. There will also be two antennae, communications dishes and a works cabin.

A spokesman for 02 Airwave said they were satisfied that the new site will be acceptable. Construction would take no more than six weeks and it is hoped the system will be ready for testing in October, if planning approval is given next month.

A spokeswoman for Highland Council’s planning department in Dingwall said there had been no objections to the new application, which she expected to be approved "very soon".

However, Ullapool councillor Jean Urquhart criticised 02 Airwave for not consulting the community when the Stac Pollaidh proposal was first mooted.

She said: "A bit of consultation in the first place would have saved a lot of hassle. They just put in a planning application without asking for people’s views.

"This is a problem in the Highlands all the time. There’s an assumption down south that there’s nobody living here and that everything will be OK."