Orange says new masts not needed

6/5/05 New Now website

PHONE company Orange has revealed that it had originally planned to erect 56 mobile phone masts throughout south Farnham. The company is currently facing vociferous protest against its current plans for 13 of the phone masts in an area covering Compton, Bourne, Lower Bourne, Shortheath and Boundstone. But the company had previously wanted to put up 56 low-level micro masts which would have been scattered throughout the area. The idea was rejected after opposition from Waverley Borough Council. Orange has been trying to solve the problem of poor coverage on its network in the south Farnham area for the past 11 years. Last week the company held a public consultation exercise at the Bush House Hotel to try to allay fears about its proposals. The meeting attracted a protest by hundreds of parents, children and residents who oppose the phone masts, saying they should not be placed close to homes or schools until safety to children can be proven. Orange said its preferred option would be to use the existing 25 metre phone mast tower which is owned by ntl in Aveley Lane. This would depend, however, on ntl and the land owners, Surrey County Council, coming to an agreement. A spokesman for Orange said: “Our current plans are not our preferred option but we have really run out of alternatives. “We did originally approach the local council with plans to put up 56 low-level masts in the area but the local authority wasn’t happy. “The best solution to this problem would be if we could use the existing tower which is owned by ntl in Aveley Lane. “If that was given the go-ahead, it would replace the need for the current masts - including the one located near to the school. “Unfortunately, this is a decision which is out of our hands as we’re reliant on NTL and Surrey County Council. “In the past we’ve applied for planning permission to do this but it was turned down and then our appeal was rejected.” A spokesman for Surrey County Council confirmed that the council leases the land on which the Aveley Lane mast stands to ntl and that in 2003 it varied the lease to allow the mast to be shared with Orange, among other operators. But the variation limited what equipment Orange could use and the company would require a further variation. The problem, she said, was that there was a large rent review outstanding, which ntl was “not dealing with”. “Once we have sorted out the rent review, we can look at the business of Orange changing its equipment. We need ntl to negotiate with us about their own situation first. “Obviously we have to look after public money. That’s two years we have been waiting for them to negotiate. “We are doing our best to resolve both issues - we are not trying to stand in the way of this being sorted out,” said the spokesman. The government has called on mobile phone companies to improve the way in which they consult with local communities over the issue of phone masts. Keith Hill, planning minster, said: “It seems like we’re all using mobile phones these days and this means we need masts. But those masts need to be sited sensitively to minimise their environmental impact and local concern. “When I’ve talked to people about this they tell me they’re not against masts in principle, but rather masts going up without any sense of public consultation. People have a right to know where masts are located.” The minister also set out the need for local councils to take into account the need for communications developments in their local development documents, and to make clear the local strategy for such developments. “Rather than just waiting for the operators to contact them with specific proposals, councils should be thinking strategically. This way they can stay one step ahead of the game.”


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Mai 2005

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