17
Mrz
2005

MPS SET TO DEBATE ON MAST RULES

BY DAVID MACAULAY
WESTMINSTER CORRESPONDENT

12:00 - 17 March 2005
A bill which would bring mobile phone masts under strict planning controls is due to be discussed in Parliament tomorrow amid claims it is easier to get planning permission for a base station than a household porch. The Telecommunications Mast (Planning Control) Bill is a Private Member's Bill introduced by Lib-Dem MP Andrew Stunell.

It has all-party support and sponsors from the three main parties, but may not get sufficient parliamentary time to be discussed.

Concerns about the potential health effects of mobile phone mast emissions prompted the Echo to launch its Shock Waves campaign, which calls for more thorough research to be carried out and urges a cautious approach to be taken towards planning applications for masts.

More than 700 Exeter residents have signed a petition urging phone giant Vodafone not to pursue an application to install a mast in Heavitree Road, close to schools, a nursery and the city's maternity hospital.

Mr Stunell's Bill would make future mast planning applications subject to a 'precautionary principle' statement, in line with the recommendations of the 2000 report by Government adviser Sir William Stewart.

The proposed legislation would do away with permitted development rights, ending the current practice meaning masts under 15m high are exempt from planning controls. The Bill would also require that for every application, the telecommunications company should set out a statement on the intensity and direction of the signal radiating from the proposed mast.

Where the beam of greatest intensity would fall on schools, other educational buildings or land, medical facilities or homes, then, in certain circumstances, this would provide automatic grounds for the refusal of planning permission. At the moment, health concerns are not a legitimate planning concern and so should not be taken into account by planning authorities.

Lib-Dem culture spokesman Don Foster said there was growing public concern about laws which meant masts under 50ft high were exempt from planning rules when minor alterations to most homes were subject to the planning process.

He said: "This Bill will allow planning authorities to take account of health concerns and will require the industry to produce more evidence about the radiation emitted, and to justify the need for each mast.

"The Conservatives created a terrible situation where it's easier to get planning permission for a mobile phone mast than it is for a porch.

"This needs to be addressed. So far Labour has chickened out, yet public concern continues."

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