18
Feb
2005

Phone mast health shock

Warning signals

Controversy: mobile phone masts perched on top of a tower block in Bell Lane, Hendon. Despite reassurances from the Government about the safety of such masts, a decision taken last week could result in restrictions on where they are placed

By Lawrence Marzouk

More than 300 mobile phone masts are operating in the borough, with clusters close to primary schools and main shopping districts, research revealed this week.

The announcement that Barnet has 315 masts follows a groundbreaking decision by a Government planning inspector to reject a plan for a mast partly because of fears about electromagnetic waves.

Attempts to install phone antennae near a Manchester school were thwarted last week by inspector George Baird, who, for the first time, acknowledged that such fears were relevant to his decision'.

In Barnet at least six primary schools have five or more mobile phone masts within 400 metres of their gates. Barnfield Primary School, in Silkstream Road, Burnt Oak, has eight masts within 200 metres.

Barnet's High Street has the highest concentration of masts in the borough, with 22 along a one-mile stretch. Finchley, Hendon, Cricklewood and Tally Ho Corner all have at least eight phone masts in the vicinity of shopping areas.

And while the ward of Hampstead Garden Suburb has only nine masts, the less affluent area of Burnt Oak has the most in the borough with 22.

Planning permission is not required to erect a mobile phone mast, although the council can reject an application most often on appeal.

The councillor responsible for planning in Barnet, Melvin Cohen, has agreed to look into the planning inspector's case, and said that if perceived health risks can be taken into account, it would strengthen the council's position for rejecting antennae.

"My party is looking at ways of tightening up the legislation," he said. "If inspectors are actually making a key change, it is something we would wish to look at.

"Our hands are tied on the issue. I think the Government has accepted huge sums of money for the 3G third-generation mobile phone technology and they are making things easy for the phone mast companies to erect masts."

Councillor Monroe Palmer, leader of the Lib Dems, spearheaded the fight against mobile phone masts when his party was in power. "Mobile phone companies would find it more difficult to put a mobile phone mast in Hampstead Garden Suburb because people protect their environment more," he said. "It's more likely in areas where there is less organisation."

A series of Government reports have not been able to find any evidence that phone masts affect the health of those who live, study, or work around them.

1:17pm Thursday 17th February 2005

© Copyright 2001-2004 Newsquest Media Group - A Gannett Company


Informant: Sandi

From Mast Network



Phone mast health shock

George Baird, from the Planning Inspectorate, said concern about health risks was one reason for rejecting an appeal by mobile giant Orange.

FRESH doubts about the safety of mobile phone masts near schools have been triggered by a government inspector.

George Baird, from the Planning Inspectorate, said concern about health risks was one reason for rejecting an appeal by mobile giant Orange.

It wanted to put a 15-metre mast 100 metres from Clarendon Fields Community Primary School in Dukinfield, Tameside. It is thought to be the first time health concerns have been cited by a government inspector blocking a phone mast.

In his report, Mr Baird wrote: "The reason for refusal refers to concern about the effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields from the proposed equipment, given that the site adjoins the Clarendon Fields Community Primary School, public open space and houses in Clarendon Street and Angel Close.

"I acknowledge that such fears are relevant to my decision."

Geoff Williams from Mast Sanity, which campaigns against phone masts in sensitive areas, said: "I believe that it is the first time that an inspector has used safety as a reason. The government advice remains confusing.

"In their guidelines they say in one paragraph health can be considered then, in the next, health doesn't need to be considered. "I believe the inspector's words in this case will give a lot of hope to a lot of people."

Mr Baird's other reasons for refusal were the "harsh and hostile appearance" of the mast and its "conflict with development plan policy".

Decision

Members of the Speakers Panel, which considers planning applications for Tameside Council, read Mr Baird's report and voted unanimously to reject an application to erect a scaled-down version of the mast in the grounds of Dukinfield Cricket Club, adjoining the school.

The panel voted to uphold the inspector's decision on the "perceived health risks".Local councillors, residents and school head Martin Kelly objected to the application.

A report by British scientists from the Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation said exposure levels from mobile base stations were extremely low and "unlikely" to pose a health risk.
But Tameside councillor John Taylor said: "When an expert finally says `yes they are definitely safe', then I will believe they are.

"I might not know all the technical data, but the inspector's explanation for refusal is very clear."

A spokesman for Orange said: "Planning guidance means the decision maker is entitled to weigh public concerns as part of the process. "There is no evidence linking mobile technology with ill health."

In November last year, the Appeal Court threw out a test case over a decision to allow the siting of a mobile phone mast near three schools.

The decision came months after three giant mobile firms won a High Court battle for the right to put up a 25-metre mast in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, despite health concerns and opposition from deputy prime minister John Prescott.

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