17
Jun
2005

People power triumphs in phone mast campaign

Kenilworth Today 17.06.05

Prominent builders merchants Buildbase have pulled out of controversial plans to install a mobile phone mast after strong opposition from neighbours.

Managers performed a dramatic U-turn on negotiations with O2, as residents prepared to hold a demonstration outside Buildbase on Wednesday.

The Priory Road site is classed as industrial land but lies within a densely populated area, and is between Thorns Infant School and the Bertie Road nursery.

Residents were furious about the possibility of being subjected to the mast's radiation because of its perceived health risks and had considering organising boycotts and further demonstrations.

Stephanie Bennett, of Farmer Ward Road , said: "They told us at the 11th hour but nothing is definite and we all want it in black and white. They said they had been given so much hassle from people going in and complaining that they decided to pull out. Hopefully they will be true to their word.

"We are all concerned about the health scares - nobody will know for another generation how the air waves can affect people."

Buildbase manager Simon Davies said: "It was never our intention to cause any distress to the residents of Kenilworth . Seeing the level of upset it was causing we decided to withdraw.

"This is the most supportive company I have ever worked for - we sponsor many local teams and events. We want to work with local people and will continue to do what we can around the local area."

Mr Davies added that the plans submitted by O2 differed to negotiations between the two companies.

Neighbours will wait for official confirmation of the pull out before ending their protests.

Lee Woolman, of Farmer Ward Road , had said: "Residents are talking about civil disruption and taking matters into their own hands - we are very upset about this. It is smack bang in the middle of a residential area and there are obvious health implications."

Neighbour Anthony Whitmore wrote in a letter to the Weekly News: "As the objection campaign gathers momentum, direct action has not been ruled out by local residents."

Residents were also annoyed about a minimal public consultation. Most only heard of 02's plans for the 15-metre high mast on Monday after they were submitted to Warwick District Council because only residents bordering Buildbase were consulted.

Many of those in Lockhart Close and Alexandra Court are tenants, and it is unclear whether letters sent there had reached landlords.

It was the third mobile phone mast plan in a month, following two applications from Vodafone for the corner of Beehive Hill and behind Oaks Precinct.

02 will now have to look elsewhere. But spokesperson Angela Johnson said: "There is no evidence of any risk to health from these low radiation radio frequency emissions - they are much lower than a mobile phone itself.

"We are very limited to where we can put the cell sites to fit in with the rest of the cells in our network. We are in a very difficult situation that everyone wants to use a mobile phone but no one wants a mast near where they live."

17 June 2005
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