Council before the mast over plan

Jul 29 2005

Maidenhead Express

By Lisa De Sousa Royal Borough Reporter

IRATE campaigners have accused the council of wilfully ignoring planning regulations after it approved an application to put up a new mobile phone mast in a residential area.

At a royal borough meeting on July 6, members of the planning committee granted mobile phone giant Vodafone permission to build a 3G mast on the corner of Boyn Hill and Clare Road, in Maidenhead.

But opponents of the mast say the council did not carry out a full consultation with residents first, which it is obliged to do under official Government guidelines.

In a catalogue of complaints, residents claim they were not invited to the July 6 meeting, where the decision was made, and that the planning officer's report ignored their objections. They also claim that when they confronted the planning authority, they were told 'the royal borough had decided not to implement the guidelines'.

The protesters have since enlisted the support of Maidenhead MP Theresa May who has lodged a complaint with the council.

In a written statement, she said: "The manner in which this plan was approved is of deep concern to me... "If true, this is an astonishing state of affairs...These guidelines exist for a reason...to allow schools, colleges and hospitals to have a proper input into the planning process."

Kobus Bensch, of Mast Free Maidenhead, who admitted to owning a mobile phone himself, said he was appalled.

"This one was simply pushed through - even though there were objections from residents," he said. "Every time there's a committee meeting, we either hear about it at the last minute or not at all.

"And even if you get to a meeting, you only have three minutes in which to make your objections. Meanwhile, the panel members can speak for as long as they like, even though it is you who has got to live with their decision."

But the council has strongly denied the claims and said that 'no decision was made not to implement the guidelines on this occasion.'

Spokeswoman Diane Robinson said the standard procedure requires the council to notify everyone who lives within 100 metres of a proposed site, and also to display a public notice - both of which it did.

She said that all eight objections they received were reported to the committee on the night, and considered by members of the panel.

She also said that the council 'only specifically invites objectors' to the meetings, which are open to the public anyway and advertised on the web-site.

Any further complaints can be sent to head of planning David Trigwell.


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