North Scotland


09:00 - 25 May 2005

Councillors were given clear legal advice yesterday that any appeal against a decision to grant planning consent for a mobile phone mast in a north-east town would be futile.

Banff and Buchan members learned that a Scottish Executive reporter had reversed a decision by councillors who voted last year to reject the proposal at Banff.

Mobile phone giant Vodafone had lodged an appeal against the council decision and it was allowed following an inquiry.

The Scottish Executive reporter approved permission for a 40ft mast at West End Garage, Jail Lane.

Vodafone argued it was needed to improve mobile reception in Banff and said the scheme conformed with radiological safety guidelines.

Aberdeenshire legal manager Jim Buchan told the Banff and Buchan area committee yesterday: "We could have considered an appeal against the reporter's decision. But looking at the decision, we are strongly of the view it would be doomed to failure from the start."

Mr Buchan was responding to comments by Banff councillor John Cox who said many residents in Banff were unhappy at the reporter's decision.

Mr Cox asked if there was any further action councillors could take and said the area west of the site was a valuable piece of ground which could be developed in the future.

He went on: "I know the health authorities were interested in looking for a site for a dementia unit."

Mr Buchan said there were no proposals for the site and no planning designation for a dementia unit.

He said he had based Aberdeenshire's defence of the decision to reject the mast application on the volume of public objections.

The area committee threw out the Vodafone application last year after raising doubts about the technical justification for the mast. Councillors also said the site was on the edge of a conservation area and close to ground which could be developed for hospital needs.

The mast application attracted 24 objections from people living in the immediate area who raised health and safety concerns.

Banff West councillor Jeanette McKee said yesterday the Scottish Executive encouraged community involvement in planning and on the other hand dismissed the public views on this proposal.

She questioned the need for a mast and said during a site visit, everyone with mobile phones got a signal at the site.

Mr Buchan said the Scottish Executive reporter had not questioned the technical justification for a mast.

The committee noted the appeal decision after committee vice-chairman Councillor Brian Topping said that there appeared to be no prospect of winning a legal battle against it.


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