By Cara Sulieman
ANCIENT religion could be connecting with modern-day technology when a mobile phone mast is installed in a church spire.
Mobile phone heavyweights O2 want to turn the 135-year-old Edinburgh church spire into a giant phone transmitter.
They plan to hide the mast inside the very tip of the listed building, and give an undisclosed cash bonus to the church in return.
However, the Church of Scotland has come under fire in the past for allowing masts to be sited on their parishes, amid concerns that high frequency emitters can damage the brain.
But the phone company says the mast is needed to boost locals’ mobile phone signals.
And although the mast failed to get initial building consent, it is still likely to go ahead as councillors agreed in principal to the unusual plans this week.
If the company re-submit the plans without proposing to change the listed building’s stonework, it is likely to get the go-ahead.
Based just yards from the Hibernian football stadium, the Church of Scotland-owned London Road Church was built in 1874.
It now hosts community groups including the local guides, brownies and rainbows.
When the minister of the church, Reverend Sigrid Marten, was asked about the planning application, she admitted she didn’t know anything about it.
The Church of Scotland said the plans were at an exploratory stage and the parish had not yet been informed.
Churches usually receive an annual rent from companies for the phone masts that are placed on their premises, making it a nice little earner for the parish.
A spokesman for the City of Edinburgh Council confirmed that the application had failed because of the building’s listed building status.
They said: “The application included removing louvres from the stonework, which are like vents in the spire. Listed buildings cannot have any original stonework removed or tampered with so the council were unable to grant listed building consent.
“There was no problem with other aspects of the project and full planning permission was theoretically granted. If the application was re-submitted with changes so that the stonework was left as it is then there is every chance it will be granted.”
O2 were unable to comment, but pointed out that previous church applications had been granted elsewhere.