28
Jan
2006

Mobile phone giant flexes its muscle

For info. It would appear that the Inspector was sympathetic to the principle of concern and anxiety about health having an adverse effect on amenity - which of course is the way that 'health' should always be presented. A very important High Court judgement is now the issue.

David Baron


West Sussex Gazette - 26 January 2006

Mobile phone giant flexes its muscle

Mobile phone giant O2 is taking John Prescott to court after a government planning inspector backed Arun District Council's decision not to grant a mast near a Littlehampton School. This is the first time the company has appealed against an inspector's decision and if successful it will set a precedent for other appeals throughout the country. O2 wanted to erect a 50ft tall mast north-west of the A259 roundabout opposite Lyminster Infant School but Arun refused because it was too close. When O2 appealed, planning inspector David Harmston sided with the council and rejected the mast because its presence would be likely to generate "significant fears and apprehension however unjustified" which would harm the well-being of children, parents and staff. Mr Harmston said that although the mast would be more than 100 metres away from the school it was considered 'near' within government planning guidelines. He also thought the O2's failure to consult with the school before submitting its application was significant. He was not satisfied that a suitable alternative location could not be found elsewhere in the area to match O2's required technical needs. O2 said that it did not consider the school to be near and so did not consult the school at the pre-application stage. It also said that there were no suitable alternative sites. James Stevenson of O2 said it believed the inspector was wrong in his decision. "We think that his rejection of this mast was wrong and that it is now for the court to settle," said Mr Stevenson. "What we have said is that health and safety is not a local authorit'ys responsibility and not an inspector's concern. If we win it will make it clear to other inspectors on what they can include and what they ca't include." Mr Stevenson said that O2 was confident it would win the case which will be heard in a month's time.

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Stevenson's quote "What we have said is that health and safety is not a local authority's responsibility and not an inspector's concern." Well, in his opinion, who's concern is it then? His industry are certainly showing no concern at all for the health and well being of those children who attend Littlehampton School. Who are the mobile phone industry to judge how we perceive our own health and welfare?

Bev

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Quite right! The Health & Safety Executive would contend (with the law in full support) that health and safety is everyone's concern.

David B

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From Karen Barratt

I'm not surprised Stevenson is feeling confident. I fear we may be looking at another 'Harrogate' (see below) where the ODPM barrister put up a pathetically inadequate argument. This led to a judgement that many LPAs are using wrongly to say they cannot consider health if there is ICNIRP compliance. The ODPM barrister in the Harrogate Appeal case did not explain the difference between thermal and non-thermal effects which might have persuaded the judges to put less faith less in the ICNIRP certificate when finding that the Inspector was wrong to uphold the council refusal of three masts near as many schools. We had the impression at the time that Prescott had to go through the motions of supporting his Inspector , hence the Appeal -but would have found it very inconvenient to have won.


Dec 2004 Harrogate

A year ago - after protests from parents - Harrogate council refused to give the mast planning permission on health grounds. The companies appealed, but a public inquiry upheld the council's refusal because there was "insufficient reassurance" that the mast would cause "no material harm to the children's health".

The companies then took the case to court. Mr Prescott supported the council, but the judge decided in favour of the phone companies. It was then the Deputy Prime Minister's turn to appeal, but last month the Court of Appeal also gave the mast the go-ahead, saying the planning process should only be allowed to consider "perceived health risks" in exceptional circumstances.

Mr Prescott came under pressure to take the issue to the House of Lords for a final decision, but refused to do so on the grounds that it was "unlikely" he would "be able to successfully argue that the case raises points of law of general public importance". The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister adds, however, that "it is considered appropriate to carefully consider the policy implications arising from the judgment when the transcript becomes available".

Protesters and MPs will be urging him to amend his planning guidance to councils, which fatally undermines his case by stipulating that permission to erect masts cannot be refused on health grounds.

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It should be made very clear that there are two clauses in PPG8 guidelines. The one that concerns the health effects of exposure to microwave radiation is one that demands scientific proof. The degree of proof called for by the Government is virtually beyond that which can be derived from a scientific study. This is the main bone of contention. When asked to prove safety, they always say that you cannot prove a negative, so they press on regardless. So we have the current impasse. However, the second clause refers to " health concerns "which followed the outcome of the High Court case brought by the brave Yasmin Skelt. Here she claimed that compliance with the ICNIRP guidelines did not allay her personal fears. Before the Judge could rule in her favour { when it would have become case law and thus apply throughout the country }, John Prescott conceded and so the clause about health concerns was added. HERE NO PROOF IS REQUIRED. It is purely the conclusion that an individual has reached after taking in all the evidence produced, both for and against. Planning Officers here, first tried to lump these two together, citing that these two clauses seemed ambiguous and, as there was no prooof, the health concerns could be given little priority. When I challenged them on this, they then included in their reportthe statement that little wieght need to be given to health concerns because there were no " special circumstances " here. When I then asked what would be the special circumstances circumstances that would allow significant weight to hese concerns. I was told they did not know. When asked why they said it, I was told that it was because they were told to do/ In other words every possible means are being applied to dilute this clause, that was only inserted following the aforesaid Court case. I believe we should challenge this seriously and force this concerns clause to be given more credibility. IT IS IN THE GUIDELINES AND we should not be railroaded into saying it has no significance.

Dennis Cannon
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