We have to take a stand

Jul 29 2005

By Rob Devey, Chester Chronicle

CAMPAIGNERS incensed by decisions to allow mobile phone masts near family homes have issued a call to arms.

Residents in Westminster Park and Vicars Cross have joined forces to demand a change in the law amid health fears.

They are calling on campaigners throughout Cheshire to join their new group and participate in a series of large-scale protest marches in Chester.

It is hoped the demonstrations will have a domino-effect, spreading nationwide.

The group, yet to be named, met on Wednesday and will also fight individual masts across the county.

Its call to arms comes after Hutchison 3G was granted permission on appeal to erect a mast on Wrexham Road, just 100m north of Ash Grove Farm Nursery.

Chester City Council had refused the scheme.

With their hands tied by the appeal inspector's decision, planners have now allowed a mast near Bunnies Nursery School on land at Chester Rugby Club on Hare Lane.

Livid locals in both areas say enough is enough and are fighting to overturn the decisions.

Chairman of the Westminster Park residents' group and father-of-three Malcolm Harle said: 'The only way to tackle the issue is to change the law so masts have to be, say, 350m from schools, residential areas and hospitals.

'We are trying to organise a demonstration in Chester for all groups throughout the whole of Cheshire.'

This week's meeting was attended by 26 residents, with others on holiday, and sub-committees were formed to co-ordinate the campaign.

The first protest is planned for early September.

Chester MP Christine Russell said she favoured a change in the law whereby local authorities decided on suitable locations for masts.

She said: 'Local authorities already identify sites for things like houses and open spaces so why not phone masts?

'The phone companies would then say how many masts they needed and ask where they could put them.

'If a mast is on Green Belt land to me that's preferable to a site that is upsetting a lot of people.'

Chester City Council planning officer Richard Gore said full planning applications were required for masts taller than 15m.

He said: 'Our criteria is the impact on the residential amenity which is quite subjective.

'Authorities have refused masts because of their proximity to homes before and sometimes it has been upheld.

'But the Government says we cannot refuse permission on health grounds because there is no hard evidence masts are harmful.'


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