PLANS for a telecommunications tower in the Ettrick Valley have been met by a wave of support from local residents.

Warrington-based WHP Telecoms has applied to SBC to erect a 30m-high 4G tower on Deephope Hill, just off the B709 road that runs between Eskdalemuir and Ettrick.

The plans have attracted 25 letters of support from local residents, with most citing the current lack of mobile phone signal as a detriment to both the quality of life in the valley and the ability of businesses to thrive.

One supporter, Ogilvie Jackson, of Selkirk, writes: “Our valley has waited a long time to get reliable telecommunications. This mast should provide an ‘emergency service’ for all the local residents and businesses should our land lines fail, as they frequently do.

“There have been many occasions when accidents have happened with no means of getting help.

“This will also be a great asset to tourists and traffic passing through our valley.”

The local branch of the National Farmers Union, which counts 78 members, has also thrown its weight behind the proposals.

In a support letter, Selkirk branch secretary Rory Murray writes: “It is vital that in today’s connected world, basic services now include the provision of a reliable mobile network, and not just for the obvious benefits to rural safety, should people be stranded without signal.

“A solid 4G signal will transform many agricultural-based business’ ability to complete basic tasks that are now exclusively online, as the time constraints poor mobile phone signal and broadband signal places on rural businesses is a very real worry for our members.”

Despite this, Scottish Borders Council has received nine letters of objection to the plans, with objectors citing the height of the mast, the impact on the landscape and the potential detrimental impact on property prices.

Mr Brian Russell, of Selkirk, writes in his objection letter: “That the Ettrick valley must have mobile masts is disappointing to those of us who came here to escape such things.

“Of course escape is now becoming impossible anywhere on this island, but at the very least we had hoped to be allowed to live far enough away from a base station not to be adversely affected.

“Health concerns for masts and cell phones are largely discounted now, but it’s as well to remember that the questionable safety of very profitable technologies may not come out for decades after their introduction, e.g. in the 60s and 70s there was widespread use of agrochemicals. I was a farmer at that time and was told they were perfectly safe. Many of the chemicals we were using then have now been banned as unsafe for one reason or another.

“I fear the same sort of thing will happen with mobile technologies, the overuse of which masts like this one will encourage – technologies which are described as essential but are more often than not simply recreational or convenient.”

In a submission to council planners, the developers have tried to address some of the issues raised by the objectors.

Damian Hosker, the principal planner at WHP Telecoms, writes: “4G connectivity enables individuals and businesses to work and ecommerce effectively from home.

“This means that car travel can be reduced which has a positive effect on the environment.

“Mobile connectivity creates a sustainable community and promotes environmental issues.

“The proposal is set against the backdrop of the forest. The screening could not be more prominent. WHP will, however, paint the installation green or brown or whatever colour the local planning authority wishes to see.

“The value of property is not a planning issue, however, in an age where connectivity is ever more important for e-commerce, including: real-time tax returns; education; health services; requirement to attract tourists; social wellbeing; and emergencies; there is expected to be a positive value to property as a result of being connected.

“No connectivity in the UK is not acceptable to purchasers in the 21st century.”

As a result of the number of objections received, the application will be decided by councillors sitting on the Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee.

The committee is due to meet on Monday, April 29 to deliberate on the proposals.