Planners favour phone mast bid

Lib Dems oppose ex-church scheme

Lucy Harvey

A MOBILE phone mast will be built on top of a Grade II listed former church in Sheffield if city councillors follow planning officers' advice, even though some of their colleagues on the authority object to the plan.

Plans to site the mast on top of the former Walkley Ebeneezer Methodist Church on the corner of South Road and Greenhow Street have provoked concern among residents and strong objection from three local councillors. Previous planning applications to site a 6.5 metre-high flagpole antenna on top of the two-storey building, now used as student accommodation, were refused after residents raised a petition and collected hundreds of signatures.

But a different applicant has now asked permission to use the site to mount smaller flat panel antennae on each face of the building's south-west chimney. The firm has requested an equipment cabinet be based in the cellar of the building with cabling and power feed to the antennae run through a mock drainpipe.

The proposals have prompted 11 letters of objection, including comments from Liberal Democrat councillors Diane Leek, Veronica Hardstaff, and Jonathan Harston.

Objectors highlight possible health implications from the mast and say it is inappropriate in a residential area, close to community groups and a medical centre; it will have a negative impact on local businesses and discourage people from moving to the area.

They also believe it will devalue property and have a detrimental effect on the appearance and character of the listed building.

And they fear because the mast is at the bottom of a hill the signal will be restricted and lead to similar applications for a taller mast in the future and say there is existing mobile phone coverage in the area.

But at the west and north planning and highways board tomorrow planning officers will recommend planning permission is granted.
"The first application proved having a mast there is not the right thing and it was refused on good grounds. Now another company has come in and they think they can do better, but that is against all common sense," said Coun Leek.

"They were very crafty jumping in on the back of the last application and a lot of local people didn't realise there was a new application.

"We have already got masts nearby. This is in the wrong location at the bottom of the hill so it is not going to be able to reach the signals and it sets a dangerous precedent for them to make it bigger in the future. I would not trust them.

"It still has not been proved that the radiation that comes from them is not harmful.

"There is a high concentration of people in the area and it's in a shopping location."

Planning officers report: "Owing to the size, design and stealth appearance of the antennas the development is not considered to detrimentally affect the character and appearance of the listed building or visual amenities of the locality.

"The external finish of the antennas will not be prominent or obtrusive from both short and long distance vantage points of the building. The applicants have discounted a number of alternative sites, which they say are unacceptable from design and siting perspectives and for technical coverage reasons."

12 December 2005



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