This is Kent


15:00 - 27 May 2005

Angry residents in North Tonbridge have protested against a mobile phone mast being erected on their doorstep.

Plans for the controversial mast on land at the junction of Hunt Road and Constable Road have raised concerns among residents over its visual impact and the possible effects on their health.

Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council originally refused planning permission for the 11.7m high mast last June.

However T-Mobile appealed and a visit was made to the site in March by a Secretary of State-appointed inspector.

The inspector decided to grant permission for the slimline monopole that will hold three antennas and a microwave dish on the area that already holds gas and electricity units.

But residents are angry that the mast has been allowed in a densely populated residential area that lies between Woodlands Infant and Junior Schools and the playgroup held at the Methodist church.

Resident Betty O'Loughlin put together a petition with nearly 200 signatures when the original application was made last year.

She was disappointed by the decision and said: "I don't know what else we can do. I don't know why they have put it there when people will be walking past all the time."

Mrs O'Loughlin, who was in the Auxiliary Territorial Service during the war, was most concerned about the health effects and said: "The government said the same thing about radar and how it wouldn't do any harm, but I know for a fact that one man I worked with had a rash for the rest of his life from his contact with a radar mast."

Another Hunt Road resident, George Carey, who will be able to see the mast from his bedroom window said: "It will be unsightly and could pose long-term risks to the health of the surrounding residents."

The 58-year-old said that as both he and his wife Jennifer were disabled they were in the house more than the average family.

He also suspected that Kent County Council, which is believed to own the island, would receive a generous rent from the mast as he claimed £5,000 was offered to the Methodist church as developers originally wanted to place it there.

A spokesman for the county council denied this and said money was only offered for private land.

Stephanie Genner, of Hunt Road, has a 15-year-old son with cystic fibrosis and she wrote an initial letter of objection.

She said: "We don't know the effects on people's health and I need to maintain my health for when my son gets more ill."

But a report published by the National Radiological Protection Board in 2000 concluded: "The balance of evidence indicates that there is no general risk to the health of people living near base stations, on the basis that exposures are expected to be small fractions of guidelines."

Mrs O'Loughlin disagreed and said she had read an article in a national newspaper about a man who had managed to roast a chicken on the top of a mobile mast.

The expert who led the research, NRPB chairman Sir William Stewart added: "Some people worry about the radio waves from mobile phone masts and we want to provide as much clear information as we can on this topic.

"Many of the concerns can relate to planning matters rather than scientific and health issues. This is a matter we expect to return to when NRPB issues a statement on mobile phones and health later this year."

Despite this, new information released by the group this year recommended that exposure to vulnerable groups such as children should be minimised.

Another planning application has been put forward by T-Mobile to erect an 8.5m high mobile phone mast at the junction of Hadlow Road and Three Elm Lane.


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