Invasion of the mobile masts

MOBILE phone technology is poised to swamp the UK - and Wirral communities face the prospect of absorbing a further 800 telephone masts.

That is the dire warning given by Cllr Chris Blakeley who revealed this week: "Recent comments from industry figures indicated that new '3G' technology will require four times as many masts than at present. This suggests an additional 209 masts on average in every single Parliamentary constituency - this means in Wirral alone the possibility of over 800 more masts."

Cllr Blakeley, who represents Moreton and Saughall Massie, said: "Over the past 12 months there have been more and more planning applications for tele-phone masts in some of the most inappropriate locations.

"It appears that the mobile phone industry just wants to steamroll through as many applications as possible, regardless of the effect on the lives of thousands of people."

Across the country in the last 12 months activists have torn down mobile-phone masts as public concern over the health impact of radiation emissions have continued to grow.

Although Government advisers say there is no evidence that the masts threaten people's health, those living near them have complained of illnesses ranging from cancer to motor neurone disease.

Some scientists have suggested that the radiation produced by the aerials has an impact on sleep patterns and could have health implications.

Cllr Blakeley went on: "Currently there is a presumption in favour of development inherent in the current planning system, which over-rides local, environmental and safety concerns. Current planning rules cannot cope with the imposition of 130,000 more masts (across the UK ) - with a further 800-plus near homes and schools across Wirral."

He added: "We all want to be able to use a mobile phone, but this doesn't means masts should be constructed without any regard for the well-being of local people. It's time for (Prime Minister) Mr Blair to start listening and stop ignoring the views of local communities and the feelings of powerlessness and frustration experienced by those living under the threat of badly-sited masts." The Mobile Operators Association, set up in January 2003 to represent the five UK mobile phone network operators on radio frequency health and planning issues, disclosed that there are now around 60m mobile phone subscribers in the UK.

In a statement they observed: "Many people increasingly rely on mobile technology as their primary means of communication. However, without a network of base stations in place where people want to use their phones, they simply will not work." The statement added that operators were consistently addressing the issue of shared masts. Both sites and masts were shared where possible, but it was not always technically achievable as each network was planned slightly differently. The statement said: "A shared site can also be more visually intrusive than a single operator site because of the increase in height needed to accommodate two or more antennae systems."

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister disputed Cllr Blakeley's claim that 130,000 most phone masts would be erected across the UK.

The Mobile Operators' Association, she said, estimated that around 50,000 masts would be needed to cope with 3G - 5,000 more than there were at present.

She said: "We are confident that the planning system can cope with that increase."


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Juni 2005

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