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29 Nov 2023

Mast plan harming Scotland’s most beautiful views

A man crouches on a footpath that runs through a glen alongside a burn, with tall mountains all around. He wears a waterproof jacket and walking boots.
On the Torridon path through scenic Coire Mhic Nobuil, the proposed mast site
The nationwide 4G expansion project is having a severely detrimental impact on the landscape in some of Scotland’s most beautiful and remote locations, and the Trust calling for a joined-up approach to protect Scotland’s landscapes.

A nationwide effort to extend 4G coverage to 95% of Scotland is leading to multiple planning applications being made to place masts and telecommunications infrastructure in some of Scotland’s most scenic locations, including Torridon in the north west and the Mar Lodge Estate National Nature Reserve.

These developments are often planned for places completely unsuited to development and, if approved, would have a detrimental impact on their ecology, stunning landscape character and quality, views and the tranquillity and unspoilt nature of these special places. The diesel driven generators that provide power to the masts will provide a constant background noise in these tranquil places and access tracks will scar the landscape. In many cases there is little consideration other than covering the countryside with 4G connectivity – this includes remote, inaccessible and seldom-visited areas where there is no community need or wider public benefit.

An application has been made to place a mast in the Coire Mhic Nobuil, Torridon in the heart of the Torridon National Scenic Area. In an objection made to Highland Council’s Planning Department, the National Trust for Scotland says that it would significantly impact on the character of the landscape and undermine people’s experience and enjoyment of it. Any structure would be highly visible not only to those walking throughout most of Coire Mhic Nobuil but also from the ridges and peaks of the most iconic hills in the area including Ben Alligin, the Horns of Alligin, Liathach, West Beinn Eighe range, Sail Mhor and Conneach Mhor.

A young man hiking a knife-edged mountain ridge on the Liathach Ridge
A hiker on the Liathach Ridge, Torridon

The plan would also require obtrusive changes to the footpath through the Coire Mhic Nobuil, undoing decades of sensitive work to restore the 14 km path, carried out by a 130-strong team of our staff, contractors and volunteers since 1999. Particular care has been taken to keep the path and landscaping as natural as possible, to ensure that the site retains its wild sense. This will be destroyed if the plans proceed.

In October, a developer withdrew an application for a mast to be sited in a sensitive location within Mar Lodge Estate National Nature Reserve. After a drawn-out legal dispute the Trust did reach an agreement with a telecoms operator over a mast in Torridon where the equipment to enable communication has been considerably scaled back to minimise the impact on the countryside yet continue to provide support for the emergency services network.

Looking across a wide glen, with a river snaking through the middle. Tall mountains rise either side.
Mar Lodge Estate

Stuart Brooks, Director of Conservation and Policy said: ‘The National Trust for Scotland understands that connectivity is vital to support thriving rural communities and we’re more than happy to work with providers to find appropriate places for their facilities.

‘We are deeply concerned by the approach being taken at the moment which seems to take no account of the nature, beauty and heritage of many locations.

‘We are calling for urgent discussions to take place between government, stakeholders, communities of interest and the Shared Rural Network project teams to ensure that national targets and overall approach is reviewed and proposals within Scotland’s highly sensitive and internationally valued landscapes are stopped.

‘We can help providers find sites for masts and associated infrastructure in places where they can bring benefits to communities, while protecting the ecology, stunning landscape and views for everyone enjoying the tranquillity and unspoilt nature of these places.

‘Scotland’s beautiful places and views are amongst its most valuable assets, and we all have a responsibility to ensure that they are protected for everyone.’