23
Aug
2005

PHONE MASTS: 'NO POINT PROTESTING'

Leicester Mercury
BY GARY MITCHELL

10:30 - 22 August 2005

Campaigners were warned today they have little chance of stopping phone masts being built on their doorsteps.

City leaders and phone companies say mobile phone antennae will continue to go up across Leicester.

Once a planning application has been submitted, residents are virtually powerless to do anything about it.

The news will come as a blow to the hundreds of people who petition the council asking them to reject planning permission for phone masts near their homes.

Roman Scuplak, deputy leader of Leicester City Council, said: "Our hands are tied.

"If the council had the choice, we would not allow companies to put up these masts, because it's clearly something that people are not happy with.

"Even if we turn down the company, they will appeal to the Government."

He said phone companies would almost always succeed in an appeal because the Government does not accept objections to planning applications based on health risks from radiation.

Mr Scuplak said: "It's extremely difficult for us to do anything.

"If we fight every case against phone companies, it costs council tax payers considerable sums of money in legal costs."

John Mugglestone, the council cabinet leader for regeneration and culture, said: "The chances are you can't stop phone companies.

"The only thing you can do is try delaying tactics. The public's feelings are not being taken into consideration by the Government."

Masts under 15m in height do not require full planning permission and can be erected without residents being informed.

Last year, the Leicester Mercury revealed the locations of 50 masts across the city which had been put up without people needing to know.

However, masts over 15m in height do need planning permission and critics say they are being installed without consideration for the public's concerns.

Keith Vaz, MP for Leicester East, said: "All the cards are in the hands of phone companies, who use their power to put pressure on local authorities.

"It's important that the Government looks at our planning laws. We urgently need new legislation so that people have their voices heard."

The comments come after mobile phone company 3 installed a 33ft mast in Nether Hall Road early on Saturday morning, despite furious protests from residents.

Barbara Potter, chairwoman of Netherhall Tenants' and Residents' Association, led the campaign against the mast and had previously managed to stop it being put up by tying herself to the work site.

She said: "The local authority should stand up to them.

"If it continues, phone masts are going to overrun the city."

Mike Dobson, community affairs manager for phone company 3, said: "We are confident that people's views are being taken into account. With 60 million phone subscribers in the UK, it's clear that people throughout the country are demanding this service.

"The more people use mobiles, the more masts are necessary."
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