People power triumphs over mast plan for Kenilworth

Residents are celebrating a unanimous decision by councillors to reject an application to erect a 15m phone mast in Kenilworth.

Members of Warwick District Council planning committee threw out the application by communications giant Vodafone to build a mast in Scott Road following a huge protest.

There was a demonstration last month by residents who sent a 292-signature petition to the committee. A further 136 letters of objection were received including one from the chair of governors and the headteacher of Clinton School and Kenilworth MP Jeremy Wright.

Following a recommendation by the council's head of planning to approve the application, residents took their fight to the planning committee meeting on Wednesday.

As the mast is only 15m high, it does not need full planning permission, just approval. Under government guidelines, authorities are not obliged to take health concerns into consideration as long as emissions from proposed masts meet international guidelines.

But residents enjoyed strong support with district councillors Ann Blacklock and Jose Compton and town mayor Coun Norman Vincett objecting to the mast.

Councillors called into question Warwick District Council's blanket refusal to have mobile phone masts on its own property. Coun Compton thought that Castle Farm Leisure Centre should at least be considered as a possible site

She said she understood guidance in reports about planning guides on masts but added: "However, this does not take away the anxiety for the people in the area who view this with alarm"

Coun Vincett said there were concerns about the health effects and said the town was "sprouting these telecommunication masts like mushrooms."

His main concern was the position in the cemetery.

He said: "Its presence would be noted by those visiting the last resting place of their loved ones. Let us show some respect and dignity."

Planning committee member Bill Evans said after being on the site visit he was concerned about how close the mast would be to people's homes.

Coun Jane Knight added: "We would not want this in our back garden, so why should we do it to them?"

They refused to give it approval to a round of applause from the packed public gallery.

Campaigner Joe Rukin, of Beauchamp Road, said: "It was clearly the weight of response from people in the area that swayed it and we all deserve a big pat on the back. I thank everyone who heeded our call.

"It shows that, despite having a massive corporation as our adversary, people power can win the day. But we cannot be complacent because I am sure Vodafone will appeal."

16 December 2005



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