25
Aug
2005

Councillors angered as phone mast is approved

Blythe and Wanstead Today (Northumberland)

25.08.05

BOROUGH councillors are powerless to stop a phone mast being put up near a school in Cramlington. Vodafone will site its telecommunications tower and equipment in Northumbrian Road after Blyth Valley Council’s development control panel granted approval. Members were told the works were considered ‘low key’, no other suitable locations are available and that they could only consider the siting and design of the mast. A report to the panel said: “The proposed works are ‘permitted development’, however, the council is able to approve the siting and design of the apparatus”. The 15-metre high monopole phone mast will be placed near the subway on Northumbrian Road, providing the Cramlington area with Third Generation Mobile (3G) services. But the plans have outraged eight local residents in letters of objection to the council, including one from Coun Bob Nixon. The concerning issues include the health implications of phone masts on the local community, the intrusive and visual impact it would have on the Cramlington Village Conservation Area and its close proximity to Hillcrest School. They also feel that other sites in the area would be more suitable. Coun Alisdair Gibbs-Barton and Coun Bob Cole also expressed unrest over the application due to its position close to the school and busy main road. But the report said: “The mast is required to provide coverage for the new 3G system. “The cells or areas served by these masts cover a smaller area than with other phone systems and therefore the search area for any new proposed mast is restricted.” It added: “As demonstrated in the additional information submitted by Vodafone, there are no suitable alternative locations to enable 3G radio coverage to the surrounding areas.” Planning officers say the mast, antenna, dish and two equipment cabinets are not considered to look obtrusive as their designs are minimalist and the pole similar to that of a lamppost. Members were also reminded of the government’s firm view that the planning system is not the place for determining health safeguards. But Coun Gareth Davies hit out at the government’s restrictions on local authorities when determining these types of planning applications. He said: “As soon as I see these applications I am filled with dread. “Whatever we do or we do not do, these masts will go ahead. “I feel that the government has reduced cases like these to a charade of planning. “It is unfair of central government to expect us to consider these when we can’t do anything about them.” The siting and design of the mast was granted approval after members took a split vote, with chairman Coun James Clough taking the decision. Vodafone aims to meet demand for 3G services, which provide mobile phones with full Internet capacity and helps to deliver high resolution video and multimedia services. It will also provide enhanced radio coverage as well as 3G services to the area.

25 August 2005
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