Exeter Express and Echo 17.06.05

City leaders are to try to block a bid to install more mobile phone equipment on Exeter 's biggest block of council flats.

Telecommunications giant O2 is applying for permission to expand its range of equipment on top of Rennes House in Whipton.

The roof at the city council-managed 10-storey-high block is already home to several mobile phone antennas and is close to Whipton Barton First and Middle Schools.

O2 and another operator have had leases with the city council for their existing equipment since 1997.

But city council leader Roy Slack says health fears expressed by Rennes House residents must be taken into account. He is recommending fellow members of the authority’s executive committee refuse O2’s bid when they meet next Tuesday.

He said: “When mobile phones first appeared, people were quite relaxed about the equipment that was needed to make these phones work.

“Now people are much more cautious and we think that the operators should think very carefully before installing equipment in very sensitive locations.

“I am concerned for the residents of Rennes House who already have a lot of equipment on the roof.

“Although there is no evidence of any significant health harm, we want to allay their fears by putting a stop to further growth in the amount of equipment installed.”

The Echo’s Shock Waves campaign has been calling for an independent investigation into concerns over the potential health risks of emissions from mobile phone masts. It was launched in 2002 after the discovery of a cluster of four cancer cases near a mast in Crediton owned by communications company Orange, which claims its mast is safe.

Exeter City Council has refused planning permission for mobile phone masts before, citing local health fears, but has lost on appeal. Government planning guidelines say health fears cannot be used as grounds for objection if the masts emit at lower-than-recognised international guidelines.

However, in the case of Rennes House, the city council would be acting in its capacity as the leaseholder and not the local planning authority.

Pensioner Barbara Escott, who has lived in Rennes House for 28 years, said: “We don’t need any more of this equipment on the roof.

“We used to have our washing lines on the roof. Now you can’t go up there and it is full of this stuff.

“We don’t know how it is affecting our health now so I don’t want any more of it.”

Terry Millan, a Rennes House resident of 24 years, added: “I would like to see all of the equipment up there taken away now. A lot of people complain of being ill around here. You do wonder if it is to do with the mast.

“I would welcome any attempt by the council to stop more equipment being put up there.”


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