10
Okt
2005

Row threat over plan for mast on church

A ROW could break out between a church and its primary school over plans to erect a mobile phone mast on top of the church tower.

Fund-raisers fighting to save the crumbling tower at St Thomas Parish Church in St Annes thought their prayers had been answered when a bid by mobile giant Orange was recommended to be approved.

But Ted Dempsey, acting headteacher at St Thomas Primary School, today voiced concerns over health fears surrounding the masts. He said: "Obviously our main concern and interest is for the health and safety of the children. We are currently taking advice on any issues that this could present for us or if it could harm our pupils. "The problem has been discussed at a meeting of the school governors and it was decided we needed to seek guidance on the matter.

"We are a church school and of course we want to support the church. However, we have to first consider the health and safety of pupils."

Health groups have raised concerns about the safety of mobile masts in recent years but there has been no firm evidence to prove the transmitters are dangerous.

St Thomas Parish Church, which was built more than 100 years ago, has battled for eight years to find a way of keeping the tower after stonework became eroded and unsafe and the tower had to close. Last year, the fund-raisers thought they had hit a dead end after being turned down for a Heritage Lottery Grant and applied to demolish the tower.

But the plan was met with concern from residents and the demolition plans were rejected by Fylde Council, which wanted the landmark preserved.

Earlier this year, a company representing mobile telephone giant Orange approached the church with the offer of placing a mast on top of the tower – effectively paying for the £260,000 cost of the upgrade work through an upfront fee and an annual rent.

The Rev Peter Law-Jones, the vicar at St Thomas, said: "I understand people have concerns, but I hope people understand we are acting in good faith for the good of the church and the community.

"We have taken our own advice and have been told that because of the height of the church tower the impact would be non-existent. "This will hopefully secure the future of the church, which, if it were to close, would be a massive loss to the community."

10 October 2005

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