Villagers' victory in phone mast row

Victorious villagers have won the support of West Norfolk planning chiefs in their fight against a mobile phone mast extension at Castle Acre.

Last Monday, development control board members went against officers' advice and refused planning permission for a new police communications system to be added to Orange's present 30m mast north of Orchard Lane in the village.

Board members decided the phone operator had failed to demonstrate that the perceived health risks of the proposed "Tetra" radio system were unfounded.

Residents were relieved and delighted by the decision, their victory clouded only by the possibility of an appeal with an uncertain outcome.

A 150-signature petition and 65 letters of protest were considered by the board. Written objections were received from the village school and parish council and three residents spoke in person at the meeting.

They included parish council clerk Mr Bill Corcoran, who said afterwards: "Our feeling is one of relief and we would like to express our appreciation to the board. There were some quite specific individual comments from members expressing their worries and concerns about a system such as this which could impair health, particularly in children."

Castle Acre anti-Tetra campaign spokesman Ms Charlie Williams, also spoke at the meeting and said later: "I'm glad that in this instance common sense has prevailed and the borough council recognised it has a duty to protect the health and promote the safety of our children. Tetra emissions remain largely untested so 100 per cent safety is not guaranteed."

She urged anyone seeking more information about the radio system to use the websites http://www.sitefinder.radio. gov.uk , http://www.mastsanity.org and http://www.tetrawatch.net

Ward councillor Gwyneth Thorneywork said the meeting went "better than we could have imagined."

Although very pleased, she suspected that villagers had not heard the last of the application. Some similar rejected schemes had been won on appeal and she said: "We can't just sit back now."

If an appeal was lodged, Mrs Thorneywork predicted a fierce fight from the village. "We have got some brilliant residents who have worked tirelessly. We will be geared up if it happens," she said.

Parish council chairman Mrs Jean Joice echoed that view saying: "I am very grateful to everyone in the village. We have had remarkable support and I'm sure people will be prepared to support us again if necessary."

Castle Acre Primary School protested about the closeness of the mast to the site for its new school in Back Lane and raised fears about the long-term health consequences for pupils.

The parish council pointed out: "No evidence of safety exists for the system. On the contrary, it is a development of a transmission system originally intended for use as an anti-personnel weapon."

The application proposed adding three new antennae on metre-high pole mounts and a 600mm transmission dish to the lattice structure of the existing mast.

In favour of the application, the development board heard the additions would supply essential radio coverage for Norfolk Police, providing a vital facility beneficial to the entire community.

The visual impact would not be significant and the site was enclosed by mature vegetation.

The proposal also met International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection guidelines, board members heard.

14 December 2005



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