CONTROVERSIAL plans to site a 35-metre mobile phone mast in “one of the few unspoilt areas of the Lake District” has sparked concerns from residents.

Hutchison 3G, better known as the telecommunications provider Three, has submitted a proposal to the Lake District National Park Authority for a mobile phone tower at Cat Crag in the Ennerdale Forest.

Locals fear it is “the beginning of the commercialisation of the Ennerdale valley” – after parking charges were recently introduced at the Bowness Knott car park in Ennerdale by Forestry England.

The phone mast would be placed less than two miles from Bowness Knott car park within the Ennerdale forest which is owned by the Forestry Commission – the parent company of Forestry England.

One concerned resident said: “This is part of the stealthy methods employed by Forestry to commercialise the Ennerdale valley.

“Ennerdale is supposed to be off-track, wild and away from technology but technology is quietly being forced into the valley.

“The increased traffic that the local roads cannot cope with and the illegal parking of tourists wanting to avoid the daily tariff will lead to emergency vehicles not being able to attend rescues which is ironically the very reason Forestry is giving for installation of the mast.

“Further commercialisation of the valley will be in direct conflict with the local establishments in Ennerdale Bridge and will lead to potential closures.

“Ennerdale Valley is renowned for its natural beauty and do not need a 30 foot made structure to spoil the views that's not environmentally run by a noisy diesel generator.

“The majority of visitors to the valley enjoy the tranquillity and conservation work but also a appreciate getting away from modern technology.”

Another worried resident said: “It will be an enabler for the car parking machine already proposed for Bowness Knott of course, but what else?

“More chargeable attractions - cycle shop, visitor centre, café, etc, a la Whinlatter, and of course a never ending stream of selfies to encourage yet more visitors to drive their cars up the narrow roads, park, visit and spend their cash while excluding the less well-off.

“There are other harms being presented here. The visual impact of a 35m mast, very obviously a modern man made structure, visible from practically every point in the valley area, from the valley bottom to the top of most of the hills on the 20 mile valley skyline.

“A precious view ruined and the sense of wildness destroyed.”

According to the plans, the Shared Rural Network (SRN) is a collaboration between mobile network operators and the Government to “improve 4G coverage for people living, working and travelling in poorly served rural areas”.

The plans go on to say: “Better connectivity has real, tangible benefits for people and businesses, such as booking GP appointments online, using apps to communicate with friends and family, boosting tourism and agriculture, access to emergency services etc.

“This equipment is considered unlikely to have any material impact on the local area but significant connectivity improvements.

“The applicant appreciates that the site is within National Park and the English Lake District World Heritage Site, however all parts of the UK required coverage.

“All efforts have been made to both preserve and enhance the surrounding area with significantly improved coverage.”

A Forestry England spokesperson said: "As a non-ministerial Government Department, Forestry England is obliged to facilitate this as part of the Government’s Shared Rural Network.

"We have not actively been involved in this project, and it does not factor into our plans for the Ennerdale Valley.

"Regardless of the planning outcome we will continue to manage this special place for people, nature and the climate."