The saga of Lord Bassam of Brighton

The saga began with this entry in Hansard during the debate on mobile phone masts.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, there will of course be some revision of the guidance, because the planning policy guidance process is turning into a different form of planning guidance. There have been recent reviews of PPG8 and I understand that it is widely understood. The problem is that local residents sometimes do not like what they hear; one has to be realistic about that. The noble Baroness makes a point about the number of appeals. It is certainly true that there was a large increase in appeals and in the quantity of written representations on planning applications. Thankfully, that appears to have peaked and may well now be tailing off, but it is of course open to local political activists to stir up such issues. It is in their interests to do so; one can well understand that.

I then sent the following letter to all Members of the House of Lords on the 8th December 2004:

Letter to all members of the House of Lords

I finally received ONE reply from Rt Hon Jeff Rooker dated 26th January 2005, as follows:

Thank you for your letter addressed to all members of the House of Lords regarding Lord Bassam's comments during the debate on mobile phone masts. You will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for the Government to comment on an individual case. Nonetheless, it may be helpful if I set out the planning position in general terms. I apologise for the delay in replying.

As you will be aware, the regulations (Statutory Instruments 2001/2718 and 2001/2719) for communication developments can be found at http://www.hmso.gov.uk . The revised Planning Policy Guidance Note on Telecommunications (PPPG*) and Code of Best Practice on Mobile Phone Development can be found on http://www.odpm.gov.uk .

The Government takes very seriously public concern about the possibility of health effects associated with telecommunications systems. Our advice is based on the Stewart Report on recommending a precautionary approach to the development of this technology and made proposals for further research.

For base stations Stewart concluded that: "the balance of evidence indicated that there is no general risk to health of people living near base stations on the basis that exposures are expected to be small fractions of the guidelines."

The Government accepted the precautionary approach and has therefore introduced new measures to ensure that people's exposures from base stations meet the guidelines of the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). These guidelines are five times tougher than they have been for the public and include TETRA and 3G base stations.

Another recommendation of the Stewart Report was the auditing of emissions from base stations. In an ongoing audit, OFCOM (formerly the Radiocommunications Agency) has measured exposures around nearly 400 base stations to date http://www.ofcom.org.uk . TETRA base stations are also now being measured. In all cases exposures have been below, and mostly thousands of times below, the guidelines.

The Stewart report had already noted that "for base station emissions, exposures of the general public will be to the whole body but normally at levels many times less those from handsets."

The Stewart recommendation for further research has been followed up through the new Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR) program ( http://www.mthr.org ) that is jointly funded by both the Government and industry. The research is aimed mainly at the areas identified in the Stewart Report and those proposed in a report on TETRA by the National Radiological Protection Board's independent Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR). The process will ensure that Government and the public are kept up to date with new research findings.

Stewart also recommended that the issue was reviewed again after 3 years and in January the NRPB's Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation published their report "Health Effects from Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields". AGNIR has examined recent experimental and epidemiological evidence for health effects due to exposure to radiofrequency (RF) transmissions, including those associated with mobile telephone handsets and base stations. They also conclude "Exposure levels from living near of mobile base stations are extremely low and the overall evidence indicates that they are unlikely to pose a risk to health".

You raise the issue of potential health concerns about the TETRA system. Following a request to the NRPB by the Home Office, the issue of possible health effects caused by signals from TETRA base stations was comprehensively addressed in a report by NRPB@S independent Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR), chaired by Sir Richard Doll. The report on "Possible Health Effects from Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) was published in 2002 in the Documents of the NRPB (Volume 12 No2 2001) and is also available on the NRPB website http://www.nrpb.org . The report noted the signals from TETRA base stations, like their mobile phone counterparts, are not pulsed. There is, therefore, no reason to believe that signals from TETRA base stations should be treated differently from other base stations. The AGNIR report also found that exposures of the public to signals from TETRA base stations are small fractions of the international guidelines.

TETRA technologies are also included within the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR) program set by the Government 2001 ( http://www.mthr.org.uk ). An associated program, specifically on TETRA, is being funded by the Home Office
http://www.homeoffice.go.uk .

The Government has welcomed the timely review undertaken by the national Radiological Protection Board which was published on 11 January.

The report made many recommendations about mobile phones and health, including two related to planning procedures. We are studying the recommendations and will respond fully once we have considered them fully.

I can assure you that the Government is keeping the whole area of mobile phone technology under review in the light of further research.

Jeff Rooker
Personally signed


The Rt. Hon. Jeff Rooker

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
26 Whitehall

30th January 2005

Dear Sir,

I thank you for being the only one to have the courteous to reply to my letter of the 8th December 2004 to all members of the House of Lords.

My objection was that Lord Bassam of Brighton referred to mast campaigners as "local political activists" because we object to mast applications and take the trouble to research, in order to help residents to present evidence which fits planning criteria.

It appears that this is what Lord Balsam calls "stirring up issues concerned with planning appeals."

I can only say that there would not be objections to mast planning applications, resulting in many appeals, if there was no anecdotal evidence of ill health in areas where these masts are up and running; if there was no visual environmental aspect with these eyesores: if the phone companies fully observed the Code of Best Practice on Mobile Phone network Development; and if phone companies did not try to breach all ethic and moral codes, which a majority of residents adhere to.

It may be inconvenient to your government that ordinary people want to object to phone mast applications, but then what other recourse do people have when the elected government ignores their plight?

I do not believe any government should run the UK which does not truly serve the people who elected it into power.

As Lord Balsam has not replied to my letter, I can have no respect for a man who tars everyone with the same brush, to suit his frame of mind, without looking into the truth of what sort of people work towards planning appeals and for what reasons.

Please inform him that planning appeals have only decreased because planning applications for masts 15m and under only need prior notification.

I can assure him that the current rush to cover the UK with 3G masts has caused great concern and anger amongst residents of the UK and that Mast Sanity is now issuing health survey forms, in areas where 3G is up and running, for an independent of Mast Sanity Health Survey. Mast Sanity also gives advice and support frequently on mast planning applications and prior notifications across the UK. The strength of opposition from members of the public is surprising us daily.

If this present government takes very seriously public concern about the possibility of health effects associated with telecommunications systems, why does it choose to ignore the pockets of ill health around mast sites across the UK; why has consideration of health/perceived health aspects been "buried" in planning systems; and why are there no ' independent of government and phone companies' health surveys?

If you are quoting Sir William Stewart and his report in 2000, why did this government ignore his recommendations then, which he reiterated this month in his further report?

ICNIPR guidelines are based on the thermal (heating) effects and good research abroad, which this government ignores states that the biological effects cause symptoms of ill health and ill health. So really ICNIPR is irrelevant.

OFCOM may have measured exposures around nearly 400 base stations to date and also an unmentioned number of TETRA base stations, but what is the relevance of measuring the exposure of one mast when some cities are so densely populated with these masts?

In reference to the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MYTHR), and also the TETRA program for serving police officers, I am not alone in having a problem with both of these.

If the government wanted an investigation into drug running, it would not choose people who had financial or other interests connected with this trafficking to do so.

My argument, therefore, is how can either of these health research programs be unbiased when they are funded by the government or phone companies?

If this government sincerely wants to tackle this huge problem of health effects from these masts it should arrange for independent research into all microwave radiation and instruct its scientists to search out a safer alternative to use for telecommunication technology.

At the very least it should remove restrictions to "health and perception of.." in planning considerations and all masts should come under full planning law, with the removal of those mast in clusters around residential areas. There should be an exclusion zone around schools, hospitals, homes for the elderly, and other sensitive sites; 3G and TETRA should be researched for biological effects.

That is what will solve the problems that campaigners and UK residents seek to change. This is what the electorate wants. Ignore them at your peril!

Yours sincerely

Mrs S L Lawrence

Message from Mast Network

Letter and attachment to the WHO in response to its Precautionary Framework


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Januar 2005

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