5
Aug
2005

RESIDENTS FORM GROUP TO FIGHT PHONE MAST PLANS

Wells Journal Somerset

18:00 - 04 August 2005

Outraged Wells residents have vowed to fight plans to put a mobile telephone mast at the top of Bath Road. It was standing room only in St Thomas's Church Hall on Friday evening when about 150 people turned out to have their say and ask a Mendip District Council planning officer questions about the proposal.

Mobile telecommunications company Hutchinson 3G want to put a 12-metre high mast on a small piece of grass next to the former garage site, but nearby residents are up in arms about the proposal, saying that it is too close to houses and schools.

Hutchinson 3G declined an invitation to send a representative to the meeting, but did agree to answer any questions posed in writing and said that they would be happy to consider other sites as long as the coverage would not be affected.

At the meeting Mendip planning officer Matt Williams explained that because the mast is less than 15-metres high it does not need planning permission, but that the applicants must still submit an application and planning officers do have the authority to recommend that the application be refused.

However, he went on to tell the crowd that any reasons for refusal must be based on "sound planning grounds", and that these are fairly limited. When considering an application, an officer considers the operational need, visual amenity, health effects and the impact on neighbours' living conditions and highway safety before making his decision.

Mr Williams said that in the case of mobile telephone masts applicants must look into mast sharing, or putting the mast next to another one wherever possible and that if it is decided that there will be some level of visual impact then the council will balance the need against the harmful effect.

He also explained to what extent health issues could be considered.

He said: "If it is stated in an application that the mast would comply with international guidelines then local planning authorities should not consider the health effects further, and this is stated in this application.

"But, although an application cannot be refused on the basis that we do not know what the health risks are, it can be refused on the perceived health effects and the impact that the anxiety has on people's living conditions." The residents were then given the opportunity to ask questions, which ranged from the possibility of sharing existing sites with other telecommunication providers, to the possible effects on television reception.

Ward councillor Simon Davies said: "I strongly advise people who have concerns to write to the planning officer.

"You cannot think that someone else will do it." Ward councillor Roy Mackenzie said: "I told Mendip District Council that there would be concerns and questioned the need and said that if I took part in the decision-making process I would listen to all sides." Eveyone seemed to agree that they would fight the proposal, with one angry resident saying: "We will not let this rest.

"If it goes through then we will make life very difficult for them." Some of the residents have decided to form a group, Wells Householders Against Masts (WHAM) to fight the application.

All letters must be received by Mendip District Council by August 10, and planning officers will make their decision by August 24.

County Councillor John Osman, who chaired the meeting, said: "I am concerned about the proposed location of this application.

"Surely there are better alternative sites that are further away from residential areas and the local school."

wells@midsomnews.co.uk
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