15
Feb
2005

Mobile masts health alert

Would-be MP's alarm at siting near schools

A would-be MP in the battle for Luton North has accused the Town Hall of putting children's health at risk by allowing 118 mobile phone masts to put up all across town.

Conservative Prospective Parliamentary candidate Hannah Hall said that many of the masts scattered across town were sited near to, and even on, schools or play areas.

And with new 3G technology being encouraged by central Government the situation would only get worse unless Luton Borough Council took a stand.

Mrs Hall said the council had failed to put a halt to phone companies' rapid expansion of their network in town, despite official concerns over potential long-term health damage to children.

Referring to a recent Government report into the safety of mobile phone technology Mrs Hall said: "I am alarmed at how many masts are located near schools.

"Given the recent findings of the Stewart report that mobile phones are potentially unsafe for children, how can the council continue to wave through planning to put masts near to where children learn and play?"

The report published last month by Sir William Stewart, the Government's chief adviser on mobile phone safety, called for a ban on sitting masts near schools as a precautionary measure.

He also criticised the Government for failing to place proper controls on mast siting and manufacturers for keeping people in the dark about emission levels.

But in Luton at least nine masts have been sited at schools – Icknield High School (two), Stopsely High School (two) and Ashcroft High School (five) – and many more are next to or close to schools, nurseries and playgrounds.

There are also masts at the Luton & Dunstable Hospital and the St Thomas Road and Bodmin Road sports centres.

They range in height from 1.5 metres at Luton Airport to 42m at Newtondale in Leagrave.

And no one company is to blame for this ever-increasing forest of masts in town, which Town Hall says it has no choice legally but to approve.

The masts have been put up by all leading phone companies, with Ashcroft High School alone playing host to T-Mobile, Vodafone (two), Orange and MM02.

Only two months ago residents in the Hockwell Ring began their own battle to halt the installation of a modern T-Mobile 3G mast next to a children's playground.

These updated masts represent the latest in mobile phone technology, allowing video images and the internet to be accessed from people's handsets.

Martin and Shafina Hockridge and neighbours put a temporary stop to a mast being built next to a playground on Acworth Crescent but have been given no support from the council as they continue to fight.

Mr Hockridge said: "Basically the council expert recommends mast planning applications for approval, because the council can't stop them being erected.

"But the council could and should take a stance, even if it's only a moral one. They don't have to vote for approval – they can at least abstain.

"They are in fact collaborators with the mobile phone companies who will always go for the cheapest rental site every time no matter where it is, and often that's a school."

14 February 2005


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