21
Jan
2006

New hope for phone mast campaigners

From David Baron for info.

New hope for phone mast campaigners

PETER WALSH

19 January 2006 11:39

Norwich Evening News

A city MP today told how he would be fighting for new laws to allow planning councillors to health fears into account when deciding if phone masts should be allowed in their community.

Dr Ian Gibson, who represents Norwich North, said he would be backing the Telecommunications Masts (Planning Control) Bill, when it is debated in the House of Commons on February 24.

Worried families from across Norfolk have been calling for years for health fears to be taken into account for years when local councils decide phone mast applications.

"I'm supporting the bill avidly," said Dr Ian Gibson, who is a prominent supporter of the Evening News's Put Masts on Hold campaign which has called for a halt on masts near homes and schools until it is proved they are safe.

"We've got to keep pushing on until we get there. I know it's not a highlight in the Government programme at the moment, but we've got to get it much higher up the agenda."

The Bill has also won the support of David Shailer, 52, from Montcalm Road, Thorpe Hamlet, who has campaigned against the addition of masts to the Mousehold Water Tower.

"Absolutely 100 per cent — that's what we've been asking for all along," said Mr Shailer, who has a son who suffers from severe cerebral palsy.

"The main thing is people feel that they've been railroaded and that their views weren't being considered whatsoever. I think people that are affected need some sort of Parliamentary law to help them.

"We just don't know about the health issues. I think we've got to err on the side of caution until it can be proved 100 per cent one way or the other."

MPs Richard Spring and Andrew Stunnell have previously forwarded the Bill, but it will get its second reading in the House of Commons by MP David Curry on February 24.

If the Bill wins enough support among MPs it could go forward to the committee and support stage, before being heard a third time.

If successful the Bill would go before the House of Lords, and then would have to be given the Royal Assent before it became an Act.

Chris Maile, author of the bill and director of pressure group Planning Sanity, said: "This Bill will do much to even the playing field in order that local residents forced to live with the consequences of telecommunications developments will have a better say in the permission process.

"That can only be for the general good of the country. The primary concern for any Government must be the protection of its citizens. If communities are fearful that their health will be at risk then the Government has a legal and moral obligation to act to positively protect the wider community.

David Baron, a spokesman for Mast Sanity, said the pressure group was also supporting the Bill.

"It has long been our view that a marked imbalance exists in planning law between the commercial interests of the mobile phone operators and the public's genuinely held fear of health risks associated with emissions from masts," he said.

"The Bill presented by David Curry does much to redress this imbalance and return a modicum of local democracy to the community."
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