United stand against mast

Kenilworth Today

Fears for the health of their children and the environment have prompted parents to tackle mobile phone giant Vodafone over a proposed mast. The world's largest mobile phone company plans to construct a 12-metre high mast on the corner of Beehive Hill and Birmingham Road, yards away from Priors Field School and even closer to resident's homes.

The planned mast falls short of the 15-metre limit, which requires planning permission and so is exempt from the need for formal consent from Warwick District Council.

Arvine Bird, who lives opposite the proposed site and has three young children, said: "Warwickshire County Council has actually banned these masts on the top of school buildings so there is obviously a question mark over the safety of them.

"The health risks cannot be proven but this does not mean they can be disproved either."

Clinton Lane resident Bob Owens believes the mast is needed to improve reception in the area, particularly for photo messaging.

He said: "It will damage the environment - it is on the approach to Kenilworth, close to a school and nursery and will be within 15 metres of residents' properties. It is something we do not want.

"The people who are going to suffer will be the people around it and nobody is sure yet what damage these things can do."

Gillian Gould, a lunchtime supervisor at Priors Field, remembers fighting a similar plan by Orange seven years ago.

She said: "It's absolute madness to put a mast next to a school with over 200 children. The playing fields back right onto Chase Lane. Orange didn't get away with it when they tried so hopefully Vodafone won't either."

But Steve Maggs, who works as a scientist at the University of Warwick, said: "Most of the research done suggests there are no problems with any of these masts. It's not necessarily harmful and a lot of the concerns have been brought about by scaremongering."

Vodafone has embarked on a consultation process inviting nearby residents, schools, councils and councillors to give their opinions before making a final decision.

People living near the site have written their objections to ward councillors and Vodafone, and a petition has also been circulated in the neighbourhood.

Coun Michael Coker (Con, Abbey) said: "As far as the masts are concerned we have to approach them very carefully, one because they tend to be ugly and two because people are still concerned about the health aspects. Whether they are right or wrong I understand their feelings.

"My own feeling is that if we have to have them, they should be well away from houses in the middle of a field."

A spokeswoman for Vodafone explained that other potential locations had been investigated but this is a preferred site.

She added: "Nothing is set in stone. We will take people's views on board and then we will make a decision."

27 May 2005


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