Prescott buries bad news on phone mast blight


Informant: Sylvie


Chichester Observer – 7 April 2005

Prescott accused of ‘burying bad news’ over his decision on masts

By Peter Homer

John Prescott today faces accusations of deliberately ‘burying bad news’ after he announced that the government would not be changing planning rules on mobile phone masts – which are at the centre of a long-running controversy in the Chichester district. The statement was made on the day the date of the general election was announced, and when stories about the Pope’s death and the Royal wedding were also dominating the headlines and TV bulletins.

The government has been under intense pressure to give greater control over where masts should be sited, putting more power in the hands of local authorities. But a spokesman at the deputy prime minister’s office confirmed yesterday that a decision had been taken not to change the rules, and was announced by Mr Prescott on Tuesday. A statement was also issued saying the government planned more research on the future direction of mobile phone technology, and future needs for mast developments.

Chichester MP, Andrew Tyrie, said this was an appalling example of Labour burying bad news. “It was decided to announce the decision on a day Mr Prescott hoped it would get the least coverage,” he added. “He has had many weeks to come to a view on this, and has been made well aware of local concerns on masts by me and by hundreds of thousands of people up and down the country. What he has done is an absolute disgrace, and I am shocked that he should behave like this.” Greater control was needed over masts, bearing in mind the huge concerns about them. “Mr Prescott has ridden roughshod over these concerns, leaving local people powerless and frustrated,” he said.

The government announcement has angered local campaigners in the Chichester area fighting plans for masts near their homes. David Baron, of Sidlesham, a leading figure in the campaign against a Tetra mast in the area, strongly backed Mr Tyrie’s comments, and said he shared his concerns. He received many e-mails about masts from all over the country, but had not had one relating to Mr Prescott’s decision, which appeared to have gone unnoticed, supporting Mr Tyrie’s view. “I was not aware of it myself, either,” he added.

Mr Baron, a member of the national organisation Mast Sanity, which lobbies on public concerns about masts, said the government had deliberately chosen the word ‘research’.

“To go on looking at the problem, when the problems have already been identified, is not helpful, and we want them to act now as a matter of urgency,” he said. “Masts should not be put up near schools, all masts applications should go through the full planning process, the loopholes in planning regulations currently exploited by the operators closed and public health concerns taken into account in the siting of masts. ”The decision to have more research was a delaying tactic associated wit h the forthcoming general Election.”

Government planning minister Yvette Cooper said: “It is important to identify the future direction of mobile phone technology in order to inform policy development and to respond to public interest ion this area.”

Informant: David B

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April 2005

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