20
Nov
2005

BID FOR POWERS TO FIGHT MASTS

BY BEN MURCH
Bath Chronicle

11:00 - 19 November 2005

Campaigners fighting plans to put mobile phone masts near their homes will soon have another weapon in their arsenal. In response to a series of high profile battles to block masts, Bath and North East Somerset Council is spending £10,000 to create a supplementary planning document (SPD), which will give its decisions added weight in appeals.

It could prevent a repeat of the situation where phone company O2's application for a mast at Bear Flat was approved on appeal after being opposed by the council.

The council opted for the SPD over a planning guidance note, which is quicker and - at £3,000 - cheaper to produce, because it puts them in a much stronger position legally.

Cllr Colin Darracott, (Lib Dem, Walcot), the council's executive member for economic development, said the new powers were vital to protecting the unique beauty of the World Heritage Site, and the surrounding countryside.

He said: "We need the strongest possible planning tool that we have to try and control the proliferation of telecommunications masts through the city.

"Most of us, in most wards, have a problem finding the least objectionable place to put these masts. The planning system at the moment is against us. We lose on appeal."

Cllr Darracott said the strongest objection to masts in Bath was that they looked ugly and that there were ongoing concerns over the potential health risk they posed.

To combat this, he said that as well as having stronger powers to say masts should be placed, the council should consider adopting powers to demand attractive architectural features, such as gargoyles, to be created to hide masts.

He added that although there was no firm evidence proving masts were harmful to health, he personally believed people should be more concerned about children actually using mobile phones than living near masts.

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The exact terms of the new document will be drawn up by council officers and presented to executive member for sustainability Cllr Gerry Curran (Lib Dem, Twerton) for formal adoption in a year.

It will include demands that phone companies examine all possibilities for mast sharing, that steps are taken to minimise the aesthetic impact of masts and equipment cabinets on the environment, and that residents are properly consulted.

Cllr David Bellotti, above, (Lib Dem, Lyncombe), who has been heavily involved in the anti-mast campaigns near his Bear Flat home, said: "We want the strongest planning guidance we can possibly have.
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