5
Okt
2005

MAST PROTESTERS WIN COUNCILLORS' BACKING

BY BEN MURCH

11:00 - 05 October 2005

Councillors have backed residents in their fight to stop a mobile phone mast. A battle has been raging over the scheme to site a mast on top of the Smile convenience store at Wellsway.

More than 100 people packed into St Luke's Church Hall in Wellsway to hear the Bath South Local Committee debate its verdict on Hutchinson 3G's plans.

Support came from opponents of rival company O2's proposals for a mast on Wellsway or at Alexandra Park, who joined forces with those fighting Hutchinson's idea last month.

In an impassioned speech, which was greeted by thunderous applause, Bloomfield Road resident Peter Sellwood said Bear Flat was a special area with a strong community and historic architecture. He told the Bath and North East Somerset Council committee it was not acceptable to allow mobile phone companies to impose masts on it without better consultation.

The majority of residents were not against mobile phones or masts, he said, but demanded a say in where they were put.

He said: "We are under threat from mobile phone operators who seem to be hell-bent on erecting unsightly and, dare I say it, potentially harmful electronic equipment slap bang in the middle of our patch."

Last night's meeting could only make a theoretical decision on the fate of the scheme because the council had taken too long to come to a view, triggering an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate by Hutchinson 3G on the grounds of non-determination.

Now a planning inspector will judge the issue - with the council deciding last night that it would have rejected the scheme.

The council will argue against the proposal at a formal planning inquiry in the future.

The majority of the councillors present supported a call for refusal from Cllr David Bellotti (Lib Dem, Lyncombe), with only Cllr Paul Crossley (Lib Dem, Southdown) abstaining, and councillors Nigel Roberts (Lib Dem, Odd Down) and Leila Wishart (Con, Combe Down) voting against.

Cllr Bellotti argued the mast would be damaging to the conservation area and the city's status as a World Heritage Site, would be an eyesore to hundreds of people as far afield as Oldfield Park, would be too close to people's homes, and could pose a health risk.

He also said that Hutchinson 3G and O2 had not spoken to each other about sharing a single site.

Cllr Marian McNeir (Lib Dem, Lyncombe) added that the stress of repeatedly having to fight off new phone mast applications was making residents ill.

The committee agreed to write urgently to the Planning Inspectorate calling for the appeal to take the form of a formal hearing rather than an exchange of correspondence.

Cllr Bellotti has also called on Mike Dolan, executive director of the Mobile Operators Association (MOA), to intervene in the issue.

He met representatives of the MOA at the Liberal Democrat Party conference two weeks ago where they told him and 100 other delegates of their commitment to openness in drawing up plans, consultation with communities and mast-sharing.

The Government has, on several occasions, cited the MOA's voluntary Ten Commitments as the code of conduct it expects operators to follow.

Cllr Bellotti said Bath's MP Don Foster had agreed to pursue the problem in Parliament if Mr Dolan could not help.

b.murch@bathchron.co.uk
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