Bath Chronicle


11:00 - 10 May 2005

A Mobile phone giant has revived plans to install a mast in the heart of a Bath community fighting off a scheme by a rival company. Bear Flat residents were given cause for hope earlier this year when phone operator O2 agreed to examine a fresh site in its hunt for a mast location.

But rival firm Hutchinson 3G has now applied for planning permission to put a mast on top of the building where the Smiles store is situated at the junction of Wellsway and Wells Road.

Two years ago, a Government planning inspector upheld Bath and North East Somerset Council's decision to refuse the application on the grounds that it would spoil the skyline.

Objections to the new application have been even more fierce than first time around, attracting 182 letters of protest compared to 60.

Issues raised range from concerns about potential health risks, the effect on the skyline, possible interference with electronic equipment and the 7ft mast's impact on property prices.

Some residents also question whether more masts are needed, and want to know why Hutchinson 3G cannot share facilities with O2.

The latest application has been recommended for approval by council planning officers, who believe changes to the design mean that it will not clutter the skyline.

Originally, Hutchinson 3G had wanted to put up three antennae, two dishes and an equipment shed disguised as chimney pots and flues.

The latest proposals are for the antennae to be disguised as a flagpole, as well as one dish and an equipment shed painted the same colour as the flat-roofed Bath stone building, which has two floors of flats above its ground floor shops.

But Sian Meredith, local spokeswoman for campaign group Mast Sanity, said: "It's too near to homes and schools and it's been refused before. There is nothing that is different about this new application. It's visually unacceptable."

O2 has won a long-running battle for the right to put up a mast between Wellsway and Bloomfield Road, but is now considering an alternative site in Alexandra Park.

Mik Phelps, who has been helping to co-ordinate opposition to the Hutchinson 3G application, added: "The company is not looking at sharing with O2 on its new site, which clearly would be okay for it if it's okay for O2.

"This is yet again a mobile phone operator trying to muscle its way through.

"It obviously hasn't taken no for an answer, but the level of local objection is even greater than before."

A spokesman for Hutchinson 3G said Bear Flat offered the best site available, and mast-sharing with O2 could not yet be considered.

He stressed that the equipment would meet international health and safety guidelines, and would not interfere with legitimate electronic equipment.

Residents were invited to an information day on the application last June.

National planning policy states that phone companies should share masts where possible but that local planners have no authority to refuse decisions based on feared health risks.

The application will be decided at a council committee meeting at Southdown Junior School, Mount Road, at 6pm on Monday, May 16.


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