17
Jun
2005

Pledge: Phone mast plans will be opposed

Wolverhampton Chronicle

Jun 16, 2005, 11:20

Mobile phone companies are being warned they will be fought all the way over the growing number of bids to erect masts close to homes and schools in Wolverhampton.

The council's three political parties are vowing to oppose all plans for masts in residential areas after mobile firms began asking councillors to support applications for aerials as tall as 15 metres.

In recent months, scores of applications have come in from companies eager to erect masts close to schools, old people's homes and even on top of a pub.

Although councillors have vowed to take a hard line with the phone companies, fears over unknown health risks are not actually a legitimate reason to refuse the applications.

Leader of the city's Conservative group Councillor Paddy Bradley said applications for masts across the city were rolling in "thick and fast".

"They haven't got the message yet but we are very definitely against them," she said.

"We are still worried they can do damage to children," adding that the mobile phone firms were wasting "time and effort" putting in applications for residential areas of Wolverhampton.

Labour councillor George Lockett hoped that a decision by planning officers last week to throw out an application for a mast in Whitburn Close in Oxley would act as a "warning" to mobile phone companies, after a petition attracted 200 signatures.

He said never again should companies be allowed to build masts close to schools - such as the one on top of Long Knowle Primary in Wednesfield.

Liberal Democrat Malc-olm Gwinnett added: "The situation at the moment is utterly ridiculous and the sooner the phone companies realise this the better."

Councillors are also highly critical of the tactics employed by T-Mobile, after private canvassing companies wrote to them on the telecommunication giant's behalf asking them to back its bids to erect phone masts. It is also believed Vodafone has used similar methods.

In just two of the city's 20 wards, Oxley and Wednesfield North, around eight masts have been proposed in this way in recent months.

Oxley Councillor Ian Brookfield said: "It looks like what they are doing is trying to win over the councillor instantly but the minute they start talking about residential areas, they need to know we are on the side of the residents."

Councillor Keith Inston, chairman of the city council's planning committee, said residents' fears were always considered when making decisions on applications. He said the council would be "a bit more open to suggestion" when it came to applications for masts in industrial areas.

A T-Mobile spokesman defended the decision to contact councillors with proposals, saying they gave people "a better idea as to the visual appearance of the proposed development".
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