A bid to build a 100ft phone mast in a village has been blocked despite locals' complaints of poor phone signal.

Cornerstone's plans to build the large communications tower on Thwaite Common split opinion in Erpingham and its neighbouring Alby with Thwaite.

It had been a major point of contention in the two communities for three years, drawing a backlash from some who feared it would harm the character of the area.

Local MP Duncan Baker was among these vocal opponents.

However, others were desperate for improvements to mobile coverage.

Eastern Daily Press: North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker opposed the plansNorth Norfolk MP Duncan Baker opposed the plans (Image: Newsquest)

At a North Norfolk District development committee meeting, a representative from the company argued this was a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to improve phone signal in the area and that a "silent majority" supported the bid.

He added that the firm had explored 14 other sites but decided this was the only viable option.

But members decided it was the wrong place for the site.

Councillors heard from Alby with Thwaite parish councillor William Cutts, who described the location as "completely inappropriate" and worried it would intrude upon the environment.

Eastern Daily Press: An aerial view of where the mast could be built in ErpinghamAn aerial view of where the mast could be built in Erpingham (Image: Google)

Stephen Bream, of Erpingham Parish Council, admitted the area was "desperate" for improvements to communications in the village but believed this was the wrong site for the structure.

NNDC councillors debated the pros and cons of the scheme, with Gerard Mancini-Boyle claiming the mast would look "like a rocket".

He was also worried about the effect the construction work would have on Thwaite Common.

"It will ruin the place," he said.

Eastern Daily Press: Thwaite CommonThwaite Common (Image: Duncan Baker)

Luke Patterson, a Conservative councillor for Happisburgh, said his views "went against the grain" and argued there was significant local support for the mast.

He also worried that not taking steps to improve mobile signal left residents vulnerable, particularly due to the digital switchover planned in 2025 which will bring an end to the landline phone system in most places in the UK.

READ MORE: 'It's not dying, it's thriving' - locals hit back at town's critics

Eastern Daily Press: Locals feared the phone mast would harm the rural setting of Erpingham villageLocals feared the phone mast would harm the rural setting of Erpingham village (Image: Newsquest)

When it went to the vote, the bid was blocked, with 10 councillors voting to refuse the scheme while one voted in support and two abstained. 

However, members encouraged Cornerstone to work with them and local people to find a more appropriate site for the tower.