home artwork/initiatives statement résumé individual artwork news associates collaborators publications views, vista & reverie contact
Photographic Survey of
the Intrusion of Telecommunications Infrastructure in Landscape
views home   introduction   base stations   the Crieff solution   the telecoms mast working group   case studies   conclusion   curios


Most people are familiar with the concept of endangered species. We believe there are also endangered experiences. 
An empty sky, for instance, or the dark of the night sky unaffected by manufactured light,
both of which would have been common experiences in the relatively recent past,
have all but disappeared.
Spatial freedom in landscapes clear of human structures is ever more rare in the British Isles.
Absolute aloneness is difficult to find. A sense of the frailty and inconsequence of human life when immersed in the vastness of the elements,
gives a much needed and powerful change of perspective. We believe that humanity is diminished by the
ongoing loss of such experiences.  Many of these losses are unnecessary.

 This survey is based upon the area of the Forest of Dean District Council which is approximately 200 square miles
(52,600 hectares) and has a population of approximately 80,000. The survey took place from June 2004 to June 2005.

Note on the electronic manipulation of imagery:

About 15% of the images have had the definition of the mast enhanced. This is to try to match the image to my actual experience of the mast in landscape. Enhancement has been used exclusively for distant panoramic shots where the power of human vision is much superior to technology; it has not been used for dramatic effect.

Base Station is the term given to a mobile phone transmitter / receiver mast and its ancillary ground-based equipment cabins.
Abbreviations in the text:  ant = antennae; galv.= galvanised; dish = dish antennae
Where no site number is visible or decipherable at the site, the text reads: site No-;
Andrew Darke undertook the survey which was funded by PLACE and The Countryside Agency, with support from the Forestry Commission.

Many thanks for help to Jonathan Adamson, Lin Thomas, Dr. Richard Cowell, Pam Day.

                                                                                                                                                                         © PLACE September 2005 

Field House
Yorkley Wood
Nr. Lydney
GL15 4TU
Tel. +44(0)1594 562646
Forestry Commission
340, Bristol Business Park
Coldharbour Lane
BS16  1EJ
Tel. +44(0)1179 9066000
The Countryside Agency
John Dower House
Crescent Place
GL50 3RA
Tel. +44(0)1242 521381


Base Station at Wyedean School, Sedbury   Grid Ref. 545 939

ntl site No. -; multi-operator site. 30m lattice tower. 3 colinear antennae, 16 sector antennae, 1 dish ant., other directional ants. Aggressive grey palisade fencing, grey and brick equipment cabins. No planting.

Comments: Very ugly, tall intrusive mast with  a confusion of antennae, sited in school grounds and very close to council housing - unlikely that such a siting would be allowed now. Very intrusive into surrounding rural views.

Urgent Amelioration Needed:  Demolish and relocate away from school and community using low impact method to blend into the environment.
(see The Crieff Solution.)


Base Station at Wyedean School, Sedbury   Grid Ref. 545 939

The purpose of this document is to draw attention to an insidious and damaging process which is eroding the quality and tranquility of rural landscapes in Britain and worldwide. High places and horizons are particularly under attack as both mobile telephone base stations and wind turbines are at their most efficient when placed on high sites. They add to the longer term intrusions of TV broadcast and military communications installations. High places are persistently undervalued in a market economy as they are, from a strictly economic point of view, underused; their value remains un-priced and apparently un-quantifiable. This value system is clearly inadequate for dealing with the aesthetic and existential qualities of landscape. Value is expressed in the language of aesthetic and scientific appreciation and consequent landscape designation eg. “areas of outstanding natural beauty,” “special landscapes,” “sites of special scientific interest” but a sterling value remains elusive. Even a relatively small change or intrusion in these areas can cause a dramatic diminution in their quality, for instance, of wildness or habitat.

As each new infrastructure is proposed and then perceived by government to be the next irresistible economic benefit another degree of intrusion in landscape by technical structures is sanctioned by a society which has become largely disconnected from the land. A new reduction of the possibility of experiences of otherness (wildness, non humanness, etc.) occurs. Yet more places Gerard Manley Hopkins might have described as “sweet especial scene, rural scene, a rural scene, sweet especial rural scene”* are engulfed for economic gain as against the uncalculated and incalculable benefit of a reverie in rural tranquility…….. or of simply “leaving well alone.”

In the case of wind generation, to have a planning policy which either by default (or intent!), results in the severe degradation of fine local landscapes in the name of global environmentalism seems, at best unimaginative or at worst, a blundering own goal. For instance wind farm proposals for the Isle of Lewis and for Whinash in Cumbria which would perform a desecration on these places seriously degrading some of our most prized landscapes and extending blighted areas a further 30 or so miles around, owing to the size of the structures proposed.

Surely coastal areas which are already heavily industrialized and are close to centres of power demand, thus reducing the need for transmission lines, should be sites for wind power generation?

The current pressures for renewable energy, mobile telephone and internet connection for all, new roads, new power lines, airport extensions etc. are going to increase rather than reduce. Our internationally famous landscapes are now in dire need of a new thoroughgoing system of protection. If anyone is in doubt as to the importance of landscape to national identity, one need only spend a little time looking at the amount of landscape imagery used in advertising, or the mass of references to the land in cultural output.

Recent governments have not kept pace with the rise in importance of environmental quality to large numbers of the population. General planning policy has been amended incrementally without addressing the totality of the real situation or the impact of new infrastructures, such as the mobile phone system. For instance the mobile operators have been allowed to continue adding to their infrastructure without ever giving a reliable estimate of how many base stations might be needed and what their impact on landscape might be! Why has this industry been given such an unprecedented carte blanche? Does the £22.5 billion license fee have any bearing on it?

A new vision for planning policy is required which is pro-active, strategic and retrospective (ie. a permission can expire and restoration be required).  

In order to make good the poor governmental response to the rising concern for environmental quality, PLACE proposes that planning law be amended so that there is a “presumption against,” as currently in AONBs, the siting of any new infrastructures outside of urban, suburban areas or urbanized corridors (new definitions will be required eg. urbanized corridors - major road/rail corridors.)** The developer, or government, should be obliged to prove an incontrovertible need for intrusion into land beyond the latter three categories. Should that need be established in an Inquiry, then the developer should be required to offer his plans for mitigation to full scrutiny and debate and subsequent amendment. A new era of respect for landscape and environment quality would begin, which is of course, what renewable energy is all about.

* from “Binsey Poplars” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

 ** see  PLACE’s national street lighting/ mobile phone system

 To return to horizons and the increasing impact of mobile phone infrastructure there, horizons tend to be the point at which a gaze comes to rest and as more and more masts and other structures are placed on or near horizons, the quality of views and vistas becomes diminished.

A gaze out over any extensive view will always include a horizon, that essential meeting point between sky and land or sky and water. Periods of gazing (a gaze: a long intent look – Longmans Modern English Dictionary) are usually accompanied by a cessation of the immediate day-to-day practical, logistical thought processes.  In my own experience, these are replaced during gazing, by a more reflective, lateral and expansive type of thought. The eye travels over and through space alighting upon and inquiring about, say, a subtle change in colour of the tree canopy, or some secretive declivity where a stream has cut down into the flank of a mountain. The eye-mind begins to speculate on that change of colour – a cooler air perhaps flows up from the estuary there or, a slightly unwelcome increase in acidity in the soil... or perhaps a reminder of the colour of a head of hair… a gaze may turn into a reverie. The eye-mind begins to flicker between internal experience, memory, new ideas and then back again absorbing the external scene. The eye wanders up to the horizon… comes to rest there… dips in and through and along and takes off into beyond.

What is the mind doing? Exploring, finding, searching perhaps… or reflecting, re-living, renewing, refreshing perhaps… imagining… understanding, or perhaps lying fallow, … or just gazing. This long uninterrupted moment is so important.

My gaze wanders along the horizon – ouch!



The development of the mobile telephone industry over the last 10-15 years has been accompanied by the requirement for technical infrastructure in the form of base stations consisting of masts, antennae and equipment cabins. The ever increasing numbers of base stations are now causing significant damage to views and vistas in rural areas, often compromising roofscapes and architectural form in urban areas and causing distress to many local people worried over landscape quality and potential health impacts.

This survey is a snapshot of the situation here in the Forest of Dean in 2004-5. Note that PLACE shares current health concerns regarding the new technology, but the subject of this document is the loss of certain sorts of experience in landscape as a result of the intrusion of technical infrastructure. The study of this rural area will be a reference point for comparisons with future development. It can be extrapolated to cover most rural parts of the UK. The principles and many of the methods of amelioration are certainly suitable for semi-rural areas and suburbia. The document points to practical ways forward for a reduction in the intrusiveness of the technology through a number of simple, effective measures.


Another possibility is the re-conceiving of the entire mobile phone network so that all the infrastructure is sited alongside the road and rail networks. This proposal by PLACE arises out of a number of observations:

This is where most people are most of the time – properties of all types and uses are connected by roads.

All the mobile phone companies design some of their base stations in or on street lighting type poles which can be fitted, in visual terms, very successfully into the urban, suburban, semi-rural design culture (fabric) of roads.

Such base stations are lower powered than those on lattice towers - ie. more would be needed, but the increase in numbers would fit in well with the need to shrink cell size in order to accommodate more phone users.

Roads tend to be in valleys and therefore lower; thus high places and horizons would be freed from technical infrastructure.

Mountains, moorlands and remote wild places where there are few roads would be less intruded upon and their  more dangerous and less humanly transformed quality better preserved.


Experience shows that landowners can have a strong influence on the type of mast built.
They should insist that the best solution for the landscape is used. This site was built by Vodafone. (Site No. 4788)

 See Base Stations Bullo (wood finish pole),  Berry Hill, Harrow Hill, Newent, (street lighting type base station)
home artwork/initiatives statement résumé individual artwork news associates collaborators publications views, vista & reverie contact
Content Copyright © 2007-09 p-l-a-c-e.org All Rights Reserved