East Antrim DUP MLA Sammy Wilson has appealed to the Minister for the Department of Agriculture to ensure that the “very limited” mobile phone coverage in the Glens of Antrim is not lost.
In a statement, Mr Wilson said that in a response to calls from constituents, dating back to 2013, he has raised with the Minister for the Department of Agriculture concern over the possibility that the mobile phone mast in Glenariffe Forest Park may be removed by the operator over fears that it may no longer be “viable” to pay the rent charged by the Forest Service.
Mr. Wilson noted that, at that stage, the minister had indicated that whilst she was sympathetic to the maintenance of this important service in a remote rural area, a commercial rent had been entered into and until the existing lease expired, no reduction could be made in the rent.
He suggested that despite the fact that the rent review was to occur in 2015, there appeared to be what he described as “a stand-off between the mobile phone provider and the Forest Service about the level of rent to be charged”.
He claimed, that as a result, the service provider is now indicating that they are going to dismantle the mast which he believes will mean no phone coverage for the Glenariffe/Cushendall area.
“This would be a tragedy given the importance of mobile phones, not just for social reasons, but also for business reasons, in an area where attempts have been made and huge amounts of public expenditure have been undertaken to promote the tourist industry,” the MLA stated.
Mr Wilson has urged the minister to intervene to prevent the loss of the service.