Phone masts get bad reception

By Pete Sherlock
Enfield Independent

Autumn is usually the time of year when mushrooms spring up overnight, but this year, people in Enfield are more concerned about a sudden outbreak of mobile phone masts.

Enfield Council is currently considering 22 planning applications from various mobile phone companies and many schemes have provoked outrage among residents.

People throughout the borough are protesting because of fears that radioactive emissions from masts may cause serious long-term health damage. They are also concerned the corners of the world in which they live will be ruined by unsightly masts.

Under current Government guidelines, local authorities do not have to consider health concerns as long as emissions meet international guidelines. Also applications for masts under 15-metres high are not subject to the rigours of the full planning process.

Although the council has rejected 30 applications in the last two years based on the siting and design of proposed masts, people are angry that health concerns are disregarded despite the uncertainty surrounding potential long-term risks.

Last Saturday, 250 Grange Park residents demonstrated against an application from Orange to erect a mast in Cranleigh Gardens.

The Independent has also recently reported on similar protests in Palmers Green, Bulls Cross, Winchmore Hill and Southgate.

David Law, chairman of Grange Park Mast Action 05, said: "It speaks volumes about the strength of feeling on this issue that so many people have turned up on a rainy day."

Enfield Southgate MP David Burrowes attended the Cranleigh Gardens protest and wholeheartedly supports efforts to change Government guidelines.

Mr Burrowes said: "The jury is very much out on the issue of health concerns, but people feel powerless about this issue and unable to control what goes on.

"The current planning process is too tightly defined with no consideration being given to the accumulative effect on health of having lots of masts in a small area."

Government policy still seems largely based on the findings of the Stewart Report, published in 2000, which found no general risk to the health of people living near masts.

Orange has proposed 18 new masts in Enfield in its annual roll-out plans for 2006.

A spokesperson for the company said: " Orange prefers to use commercial property, rooftops or share existing masts, but in these instances those options were not available.

"People want to be able to use their mobile phones when and where they want, and in order to meet these customer expectations, Orange has to have the infrastructure in place."

The proliferation of masts can be attributed in part to the new generation of so-called 3G phones, and Orange has confirmed most of its planned Enfield masts are primarily to provide 3G coverage.

But Mr Burrowes doesn't believe possessing a phone means accepting a mast on every street corner.

"People aren't writing to me about lack of mobile coverage in their area."


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November 2005

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