October 1, 2008

Revenue is Heaven Sent for Church Funds

By Will Roberts

A CHURCH which is used to communicating with the heavens may soon be helping people get in touch in a different way.

St Mary?s Parish Church, in Barnard Castle, could replace its flagpole at the top of its 20metre tower with amodel that will shroud a mobile phone antenna.

Mobile phone firm O2 has submitted a planning application to Teesdale District Council for the new flagpole.

It is hoped the eight-metre tall antenna would provide much- improved 3G mobile phone reception for Barnard Castle, while having a minimal impact on the surroundings.

The application comes after many years of negotiations between O2, the council and local groups.

Before opting for the grade I-listed church, other sites such as Witham Hall, the methodist church, Barnard Castle Cricket Club and the cattle mart, were all considered for an antenna.

Much of Barnard Castle gets only limited reception and many phones are unable to pick up a 3G signal which lets them receive multimedia messages, make video calls and surf the internet.

The new antenna would give a strong signal to phones in the centre of the town from Startforth up to Bede Road.

The signal would improve right up to the outskirts of town and even into some of the outlying farms.

There are already two mobile phone masts in the town, on Harmire Industrial Estate, and at the top of Bede Road.

The Reverend Alec Harding, from St Mary?s Church, said: ?I don?t think anyone will be able to tell the difference in the new flagpole really. I?ve seen pictures of similar ones and they look absolutely fine.

?It will be a benefit to the wider community and as well as being less noticeable than a lamp post-style ones, it will provide a better coverage because it is higher up.

?O2 will pay us a regular rent which we would welcome because our running costs are over [pounds]100,000 a year.

?Most people I have spoken to have said ?good on you ? you might as well have the income?. ?

Tom Powell, regional communications manager for O2, said: ?This is a design utilised by O2 right across the country. The installation will look exactly like a flagpole to blend in with the historic environment. ?

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