8
Mai
2005

SCHEME TO BUILD MAST AT SCHOOL

05/05/2005

By STEVE BAKER

PLANS are being developed to build a mobile phone mast at a Woking school — despite fears that radio waves could be damaging to children.

Mobile phone service provider Orange has written to interested parties stating that it wants to build the mast at St John the Baptist School in Elmbridge Lane, Kingfield.

This comes as a government report earlier in the year said it was advisable not to allow children under the age of eight to use mobiles and for those aged up to 14, parents had to judge the risk for themselves. The report, compiled by Sir William Stewart, chairman of the National Radiological Protection Board, earlier this year, points to a number of studies which raise health concerns connected with mobile phone use.

Bob Hely, who has a daughter at the comprehensive school, sixth form and language college, said: “I don’t like the idea of phone masts near the school because we don’t know how safe they are. “I admit I do use a mobile phone but I am very unhappy about this plan and I’m quite sure they can find somewhere else to put the mast.”

Yet despite concerns over the health implications of masts, planning guidance from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister states that such issues should not be considered when determining mast applications.

In a letter leaked to the News and Mail, Orange has asked Woking Borough councillors and governors at the school to give their opinions on the proposal. In it the company expresses its wish to install the mast or radio base station at the school to improve its coverage in the area. Orange said: “A possible location has been sensitively selected so as to minimise the wider impact on the environment.” Further on the company adds that the mast at the school “would provide the solution we require and we think the design is well suited to the existing environment”. This letter is a part of Orange ’s consultation process before it submits a full planning application to Woking Borough Council.

A statement issued on behalf of the council states that it has not yet received an application for the mast. Adrian Bishop, the council’s deputy borough planning officer, said: “The council does not have a specific planning policy precluding mobile phone mast applications near schools. “However, any application will be assessed against central government advice and local plan policies while taking into account any representations received from the school and the public generally.”

Cllr Ken Howard, chairman of the council’s environment overview and scrutiny committee, believed that this was a Catch 22 situation.
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