Telecom providers need to up their game in Dorset and improve telephone coverage to the many places which have a poor, or non-existent signals  – according to some councillors.

Dorset councillors heard that although the commercial providers promise to make improvements – they often change their plans and nothing happens.

Cllr Simon Gibson said he knew of one road in the Verwood area where those all around them now had access to full fibre, but despite promises by a company to ‘plug the gap’ it had not happened and, worse, the telecoms firm was now blaming the council for the failure, he said.

Another councillor from the area, Cllr Toni Coombs, said that she feared breaking down on some roads in the south east of the county because many had no phone signal at all.

“There are an awful lot of spots where there is no signal around Verwood.. when driving If I broke down on those roads I would be vulnerable,” she said.

Cllr Sherry Jespersen, who chairs on the council’s area planning committees, said there remained “a fog” over the way in which planning applications for masts were dealt with.

She said, in her area, a provider had been planning a mast within inches of garden gates in a housing estate and in another, unsuitable, location, with people apparently powerless to stop them.

“Negotiations were well advanced before any conversations were held with the landowner…and when the conversation was had it was made quite clear that they (the landowner) didn’t have the power to say ‘no’ – which I found strange and caused the landowner a great deal of anxiety,” she said.

She said the process for a mast should be the same as for other planning requests although the Government was encouraging a process where masts were considered permitted development, without the need to go through the full planning process.

Cllr Rowland Tarr said that in Martinstown two masts had been erected side by side on the edge of the Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty – with locals claiming that one of them was not even working.

Senior council officer Matt Piles, who oversees planning, said he wished the commercial providers would engage with the council’s planning and highways department much sooner when they were proposing new masts.

The report to the committee warned that Dorset, overall, continued to lag behind other areas – contrasting poorly with neighbouring Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole where there is 83 per cent gigabyte coverage – compared to Dorset’s 37 per cent.

A report to councillors concludes that mobile connectivity across the county is “patchy” for all four major providers with the risk that services will get worse, not better, when 2G and 3G services are switched off from 2025 onwards.

Much of the problems come from the rural nature and topography of the county making service provision less cost-effective than in urban areas.

Weymouth councillor Ryan Hope told the meeting that, despite the map which showed mobile coverage good in the town, in the summer the influx of visitors meant that the signals became much worse and people struggled, no matter which network they were on.

He warned that if the situation continued, it would begin the affect the wider economy, as people were being prevented from operating as the Government envisaged, with more activity taking place online and via smart phones.