7
Jul
2005

HEALTH FEARS NOT AN ISSUE

Bath Chronicle

11:00 - 07 July 2005

Health fears are often raised by worried householders when an application is submitted for a mobile phone mast near their home. But worries about possible effects from radiation are not allowed to be taken into account by council planning officers.

They make the recommendations as to whether planning committee members should permit or turn down each particular application and they have a tight set of guidelines to follow.

Not every mobile phone mast will require planning permission but, if a planned telecommunications mast is in a conservation area, as many in Bath are, or more than 15 metres high, then permission is needed.

If the mast does not fit these criteria, the mobile phone operator still has to apply for prior approval from planning officers at Bath and North East Somerset Council.

When an operator applies for prior approval, the only factors officers can consider are the siting and design of the mast.

It is only when planning permission is required that the officers can look into any other issues.

The planning guidance that is issued to local authorities by the Deputy Prime Minister's Office says: "It is the Government's firm view that the planning system is not the place for determining health safeguards.

"It remains central Government's responsibility to decide what measures are necessary to protect public health."

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I get so many callers on the advice line being told by their councils or operators that health cannot be taken into consideration if the mast is under 15 m high (see below). I keep telling them that nothing in the guidelines has changed, only that councils are more wary of taking a health stance after an appeal court decision (Harrogate). But it seems local councils must have been given some kind of new policy guideline, either by the Govt or by operators, otherwise why would they all now be stating that? I expect they've been given a one-sided account of the Harrogate decision, twisted to suit the operators.

Caroline

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A totally incorrect appreciation of the planning regulations - yet again!

David Baron
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