This is Exeter

12:00 - 17 May 2005

Telecoms giant Vodafone today pledged to press on with its plan for a controversial new city phone mast despite so far failing to submit a planning application.

In under three weeks more than 700 people signed a petition organised by the Echo against the siting of the so-called third generation transmitter outside Exeter's maternity unit and close to several schools and nurseries.

In March, Vodafone said it was about to submit a formal planning application.

But the company has so far held back from tabling its bid for the mast on Heavitree Road.

However, it insists the location is still its number one choice on technical grounds and is continuing to discuss the mast's design and siting requirements.

A Vodafone UK spokesman said: "We are still currently working with the local authority to find an acceptable design and meet the terms as to what would be seen as an acceptable site.

"We are still in the exploratory, pre-application stage and won't move forward until we have covered all the issues."

An Exeter City Council spokeswoman confirmed no formal application had so far been received. The Echo presented its 703-name petition to the company last month and appealed to Vodafone to look elsewhere.

Residents expressed concern about the possible health risks of a mast close to their homes and children's schools, despite the company stating that the mast would work at levels below current international guidelines.

Vodafone has also said that other landowners in the area have been unwilling to offer alternative sites.

How Vodafone's expected planning application is dealt with will depend on the size of the mast. If taller than 15 metres, it will be subject to the normal planning process. But if it is lower than that height it may be eligible for the 'prior approval' process.

If the local planning authority does not respond within 56 days of such a 'prior approval' application, it is automatically passed.

Planning authorities can object, but they are instructed to "first explore with the operator the possibility of modifying the siting and appearance of the proposed development".

Councils should also take account of the need for masts and technical issues.

The Express & Echo launched its Shock Waves campaign in 2002. It is calling for more research into the health effects of mobile phone masts.


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