The Conservative Government has been accused of ‘failing the people of Sunderland’ after a developer was allowed to build a 5G mast on a city beauty spot, despite planning being denied.

Hundreds of residents backed a campaign in 2021 led by Cllr Phil Tye, the Labour councillor for Silksworth Ward, to stop the construction of a 5G phone mast on the Tunstall Hills nature reserve.

The campaign was a success and led to local planning chiefs unanimously rejecting proposals to erect a 20-metre monopole supporting six antennas and two transmission dishes at The Precinct – just metres away from residents’ bedrooms.

Two years on however and new Government planning laws – passed to help telecoms providers bolster their mobile networks without having to seek prior approval – has resulted in Britain’s largest telecoms tower company, Cornerstone, pressing ahead with the development, despite the objections of residents and local councillors.

“The fact that they have begun building the mast without consulting the public and in spite of the fact that they have already had planning permission denied is absolutely scandalous,” said Cllr Tye.

“The people of Tunstall and Silksworth sent a clear message to the developers in 2021 that they did not want a 5G mast built on the edge of Tunstall Hills and yet here we are, just two years on, seeing them bulldoze their way into our community and building on our green belt anyway.

“To make things worse, they didn’t even have the decency to let us know prior to the works starting. The council and local councillors were notified by Cornerstone after they had begun work this week, but residents had already noticed the works starting and had raised their concerns prior to them speaking to us.

“Residents have said they don’t want it, councillors have said they don’t want it and environmental campaigners have said they don’t want it, which begs the question, who does want it, bar the shareholders set to profit from it?

“It’s yet another case of the government putting their corporate friends in the City before the communities they are elected to represent and yet another broken Tory promise to the people of Sunderland.”

The Government made amends to the General Permitted Development (England) Order 2015 (GPDO) bill last year made it easier for developers to construct telecoms infrastructure on sensitive sites such as National Parks, Conservation Areas and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

However, while Cllr Tye agrees that the city needs to embrace 5G, he believes the freedoms given to developers to build ‘almost at will’ is a ‘failure to protect the environment and our communities.’

“The Conservatives know that this is wrong on so many levels, and that as soon as we have a Labour Government the law will be repealed, which is why they’ve pushed it through against the will of the people and began construction,” he added.

“There’s no hiding from the fact that 5G will bring huge economic benefits and will play a key role in Sunderland achieving its goals of becoming a world-leading Smart City, but the roll-out can’t be at the detriment of our green belt and our communities.

“There are ways and means of going about it in a respectable, democratic manner, such as engaging with local people to identify sites that would work – which is an approach we’ve suggested to the developers – yet they seem hell bent on just doing whatever they like.

“It’s as if the taxpayer has no say on how their money is spent anymore and these companies can just build outside our homes and on our greenbelt whether we like it or not.

“I can understand why local residents feel so furious about the development and I would like to re-assure them that we will do absolutely everything in our power to fight against these unjust proposals.”