30
Jun
2005

MORATORIUM ON MASTS LIFTED

Fife Today

AN OUTRIGHT ban on mobile 'phone masts being sited on council land has been lifted.

But Fife authority's decision has come too late for anti-mast campaigners in north Glenrothes.

They were angered when a 15-metre-high monopole was erected in Formonthills Road last year.

Irate residents living in the mast's shadow fought a long-running battle with mobile company O2 over the device's position - even trying to block engineers from replacing the mast after it had been taken away for repairs in May.

However, despite the council's vow to remove its moratorium, it appears the Formonthills "eyesore" - as many locals have dubbed it - is here to stay.

Ron Page, chairman of the North Glenrothes Community Council, said he hoped the authority's U-turn would spare other communities the grief north Glenrothes folk had gone through.

"We did ask O2 if they could review the situation and perhaps even put the mast across the road," he told The Gazette.

"They said it had been too expensive to move it and in any case, Fife Council had agreed to where it was sited.

"Hopefully, in the future, the options will increase."

Mr Page added: "These masts do not have to be exactly adjacent to anybody's house.

"It's clear that all the mobile companies and Fife Council's planning department have had their fingers burned by what's happened up at Formonthills Road.

"It's a beacon to future development."

Councillor John Cameron, spokesman for development and planning, admitted there had to be a balance between economic benefits to Fife and the need of the industry to put equipment in appropriate locations.

"We appreciate that many communities across Fife have concerns about the location of telecoms equipment, but with the moratorium lifted, we may now be able to avoid masts being located by roadsides or near houses and put these on more suitable sites at council property instead," he commented.

"If a council site is the best location for equipment to be placed, then officers and councillors will work with the current guidance and policies to make that determination."

The council will receive money from operators whose masts were located on council premises.

Indeed, before the moratorium came into place in 1999, the council received £35,504 in fees each year.

But Councillor Cameron added that this should not be a "determining factor" in any policy or decision made.

A detailed policy will now be developed to help councillors deal with future mast applications concerning council property.

It will aim to avoid issues of equipment being put on schools or other buildings involving residents, members of the public or council staff.

Christine May MSP has welcomed the news of the change of heart by Fife Council.

She said: "This decision has been badly needed, especially in Glenrothes, where the installation of masts has been very contentious.

"In many instances, council-owned land might have been a better location for masts, but, because of the ban these could not be considered.

"Now, all possible sites will be up for assessment, and it may be possible to find locations which are further from homes and less obtrusive but still effective."

29 June 2005
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