14
Jun
2005

Mast protesters fail in bid to buy site

Southampton Echo 14 06 05

MAKING A POINT: Campaigners outside Hampshire County Council's headquarters (Mr Saunders is on the right). Echo pictures by Stuart Martin.

CAMPAIGNERS hoping to exploit a legal loophole in their fight against a Winchester phone mast have had their plans dashed by Hampshire County Council.

Alan and Anne Saunders, a city councillor, applied to buy the mast site in Byron Avenue and extinguish the highways rights.

That could have scuppered Orange 's five-year struggle to erect the mast.

However, Mr and Mrs Saunders needed county council permission and its Cabinet yesterday blocked their move.

The Saunders, of Chilbolton Avenue , whose garden is next to the site, said after the meeting they would report the council to the ombudsman for mismanagement.

They said their initial application to gain legal rights had gone smoothly and they had paid a £500 deposit.

However, they claimed the county had since dragged its heels over the application and their inquiries had been ignored.

At the specially-convened meeting, Alison Quant, director of environment and head of corporate affairs, urged Cabinet members to make their decision on whether the council should retain the land purely on highways grounds.

Mr Saunders and fellow campaigners Karen Barrett and Michael Etherington, spoke at the meeting.

They argued the land was not used by pedestrians or cyclists as it was part of the verge and there was pavement in front of it. The land had been maintained by residents for nearly 30 years.

Mr Saunders added that should the land come into his possession there would be a legally-binding covenant ensuring that nothing would be built there.

Councillors thought that the foliage was too overgrown and posed a risk to pedestrians and cyclists and the land should remain in council hands so that it could be maintained properly.

Councillors agreed with chief executive Peter Robertson that should the land go to Mr Saunders, the county would have no control over it.

Councillors upheld the recommendation to refuse Mr Saunders' application to extinguish highways rights on the land and to reimburse the fee of £500 already paid.

After the meeting, Mrs Barrett said: "The decision is no surprise, we are used to being dismissed."

Mr Saunders said: "It was ultimately predictable. They had a meeting two weeks ago which pre-empted this decision. It was just a democratic show. We are going to report them all to the ombudsman because of the way they proceeded with this. If there was no media action there would have been no meeting."
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