PLANS to improve mobile phone coverage in parts of Benfleet have been scuppered after the latest application was earmarked for refusal.

Telecoms giants Vodafone and O2 want to put a 65ft phone mast in Stilling Ponds in Rushbottom Lane, Benfleet, to improve service in the borough as more and more residents switch to using smart phones.

The telephone mast would be used to support nine mobile phone antennae and three satellite dishes, but planning officers at Castle Point Council don’t want the plans passed.

The latest application comes after a string of previous ones made by the firms to put masts up in Church Road and The Chase, Thundersley and Hilton Road, Canvey .

The phone companies say they need to up coverage in the area and that the masts only currently cover a half-mile radius, hence the need for more of them.

A spokesman from Vodafone and 02 said: “We have seen an increase in demand for data services, as more people switch to smartphones and to meet this need we have to improve 3G coverage in Benfleet. After reviewing the area, we identified our preferred location near the A130 but when the site was surveyed, the land was flooded and therefore inappropriate to site electrical equipment.

“Accordingly, we identified a site within Stilling Ponds which allowed us to utilise existing trees to ensure that visual intrusion is minimised.

“In December 2011, we undertook pre-application consultation with the ward councillors, MP and local school but did not receive any feedback before the application was submitted in mid June 2012.

“We are disappointed the planning officer has recommended the application be refused.”

In his recommendation to refuse permission for the mast, planning officer Keith Zammit says the mast would be detrimental to the look of the area.

He said: “Although the need for this equipment is not disputed and it is not considered there are other obviously suitable sites nearby that could be used, the proposed structure is considered visually intrusive in the area and would be in conflict with Government guidance and local policy.

“I have taken all other matters raised by interested parties into consideration, but none are sufficient to outweigh the considerations that led to the recommendation.”

A final decision on the plans will be made at a development control committee meeting at the council offices in Kiln Road, Thundersley, on July 31.