8
Jun
2005

Hearing aid risk brings mast protest

/6/2005

Farnborough News

TEACHERS and residents are battling against proposals for a phone mast to be built close to two schools calioming it will interfere with pupils’ hearing aids.

Rushmoor Borough Council has told residents in Northcote Road , Farnborough, that they are considering plans to install a 10m Vodafone mast next to their homes and less than half a mile from Manor Infant School and Manor County Junior School .

The junior school, in Fernhill Road , has a special unit for children with hearing difficulties.

Headteacher Mark Sands said: “We are very concerned about the mast.

“We have a hearing impaired unit at the school and our hearing impaired advisor has noticed interference with hearing aids in another school because of either a mobile phone mast or a telegraph pole.”

Staff at nearby Manor Infant School agreed. Headteacher Marilyn Penman said: “Like everybody else we have concerns about health and safety for the children — we have the Healthy School Award and we feel that the mast would go against this.
“We have sent a letter to register our objections.”

One of the campaign leaders is Angela Phillips, 37, of Avon Close. She said: “We are told that our objections cannot be on the grounds of potential health issues as they say ‘the government will take full responsibility’ but what evidence have we been given to prove that there is no risk to our health? None.

“We just have to take the word of a government that is not renowned for its honesty.”

Keith Holland, head of planning services, said the council has not made a decision on whether the plans will go ahead. They “will look carefully at what people are saying”.

He said: “We have rejected proposals like this before when we have felt that they are in the wrong position but we cannot reject them on the grounds of health and safety as the government believes there are no grounds to object on that.”

Electro-magnetic service advisor for Vodafone, Jane Frapwell, denied that there is any danger in masts being close to residential areas.

She said: “We do recognise that people have concerns but we do comply with some very stringent international guidelines that are there to protect all of us, whether we are one metre away from the mast or one mile.”

Vodafone claim that an independent body investigated the health and safety of masts.

The Health Protection in its January report said there is no scientific basis for establishing minimal distances between masts and residential areas.

The public is not sure. Northcote Road resident Petula Bradshaw said: “We don’t want it here when it can go somewhere not close to a school, with less housing.”

Her son Martin has secured 300 signatures from people against the mast. He said: “It is a health risk to the local area, it’s an eyesore that we don’t want around and it interferes with hearing aids in school.”

Mrs Dodwell, from Anglesey Avenue , Farnborough, said: “At the end of the day we all have phones and we all moan if they don’t work properly but I think I would want some written evidence that the mast won’t harm my daughter.”

Grange Ward councillor Mike Smith who is also fighting the plans, said: “I’ve always had a pretty volatile opinion towards putting up masts and we have contested several masts from going up before.

“A latest report from Switzerland has confirmed that a serious risk from masts will come through in time but somebody keeps moving the goal posts on conditions of what they can and can’t do.”

Residents are also enraged that Vodafone has not had to apply for planning permission.

But Cllr Holland explained why. “It is true that they don’t need planning permission because it is below the height limit of, I think, 15 metres, but they do need our agreement of the siting of the mast.”

The protestors are now waiting for Rushmoor Council to decide if they will allow Vodafone to build the mast.

But Ms Philips vows that she and other residents will boycott Vodafone if the plans do go ahead.

Picture: Angela Phillips with Jared and Rebecca protesting against a possible Vodafone mast in Northcote Road
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