County blocks bid to buy phone mast land

Date Published: Monday 20 June 2005

This is Hampshire

A WINCHESTER couple say they will be reporting Hampshire County Council to the local government ombudsman over its decision to block their bid to buy a piece of land where a controversial phone mast is due to be sited.

Alan and Anne Saunders, who live in Chilbolton Avenue, are accusing the council of "mismanagement" of their application to buy the plot at Byron Avenue .

They want to know why, after accepting a £500 deposit, along with their formal request for legal rights over the land, the council "dragged its feet", notified phones giant, Orange, which has planning permission for a 39ft mast, and then decided, after all, not to sell it.

At a specially-convened meeting on Monday, cabinet members accepted the recommendation of Alison Quant, director of environment and head of corporate affairs, not to extinguish highways rights - and to refund the couple's deposit.

Mr Saunders, together with mast campaigners, Karen Barratt and Michael Etherington, spoke at the meeting.

They said the land was not used by pedestrians or cyclists as it was part of the verge and there was pavement in front of it.

They added that the land had been maintained by residents for nearly 30 years.

They pointed out that residents had planted on the land and it was used as a safe play area for children and was not in any way needed for high ways use.

Mr Saunders also added that should the land come into his possession there would be a legally binding covenant ensuring that no fencing would be erected on the site and nothing would be built there.

However, councillors thought 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.

They also agreed with chief executive, Peter Robertson, that, should the land go to Mr Saunders, the county would have no control over it and would not be able to uphold any covenant agreement.

After the meeting Mrs Barratt said: "The decision is no surprise - we are used to being dismissed. Whatever they say about highways issues, we know councillors are nervous about what Orange might do and we're not giving up now."

Mr Saunders said: "It was ultimately predictable. They had a meeting two weeks ago which preempted 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 we hadn't gone to the press, there would have been no meeting."

Mr Robertson said that it was Mrs and Mrs Saunders' right to report the council to the ombudsman if they so wished.


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Juni 2005

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