25
Aug
2005

INSPECTOR OVERTURNS PHONE MAST REFUSAL

The Citizen, Gloucestershire

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10:30 - 24 August 2005

A Planning inspector has overturned Stroud District Council's decision to oppose permission for a mobile phone mast at Thrupp.

Members of the public had applauded councillors when they rejected Vodafone's application for a 12-metre device in London Road on health and visual intrusion grounds. But five months on, an inspector has decided in favour of the mobile phone company's proposal.

Last year almost 40 householders logged protest letters with the council about the mast.

Mother Lynn Cain said people were really worried about the health implications of the radiation from the mast.

She was especially concerned because it was near Stroud General Hospital.

However, Inspector Ken Barton said Vodafone's pole and cabinets would be screened by trees and would be "integrated into the locality to some extent".

"Public views and vantage points are limited and people are only likely to get a fleeting view of it," said Mr Barton.

"It would have an insignificant impact on the character and appearance of the area."

On the issue of health, the inspector said he noted the "strong local feeling", particularly about the school 400 metres away and two homes 100 metres from the pole. But the proposal had been designed to comply with the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.

"PPG8 indicates that in these circumstances it should not be necessary to further consider the health aspects and concerns about them," he said.

The inspector's decision has been condemned by Green Party councillors as "undemocratic".

They said the mast and two equipment cabins would "blight" the London Road approach to Stroud.

"There has been enormous local opposition from Thrupp residents to this phone mast - no wonder people get disenchanted with democracy when the decision of local councillors and the opinions of local people are overridden by an unelected bureaucrat," said Coun Martin Whiteside.

"It seems that this Government and the Planning Inspectorate are only interested in the profits of big business, not the opinions of local people".

On behalf of Vodafone, Jane Frapwell said the company planned to keep visual intrusion from the mast to a minimum.

"We are well aware that this is a conservation area and our obligations to make sure we reduce and visual impact and to provide a service locally," she said.

"This installation is a roadside slim pole which is designed to blend in with existing street furniture.

"In terms of health we recognise that some people do have concerns but we take our lead from expert international bodies such as the World Health Organisation which has said that within the guideline levels there is no evidence of any adverse health effect from radio base stations.

Omega this statement is plain and simple not true. See further under: //omega.twoday.net/stories/771911/

"They are very low powered and provide a very local service."

David Corker, from Stroud District Council, said the authority would not incur any costs from the planning appeal because it was dealt with through written representations.

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Thanks to whoever posted this...

I have replied to the newspaper in Stoud with the following:

I would like to let the good people of Stroud know that they are not alone! This sad state of affairs is happening all over the UK and has indeed two weeks ago happened at Marlborough in Wiltshire. Marlborough is very similar to Stroud, both are delightful little old English rural market towns, full of historic and listed buildings set in beautiful surroundings and within or around conservation areas and ANOB’s. Like the people of Stroud, the residents of Marlborough would like to keep it that way. But no, the telecommunications giants are walking all over the UK, crushing us underfoot and changing the very nature and traditions of all that we hold dear.

Below are a few thoughts to encourage Stroud to fight on; why should we have all this equipment and environmental pollution imposed upon us against our wishes, putting the needs of the operator before our own? In our case the real culprit is BT who want to put these masts on their exchange roof against the wishes of their customers who live around it. At the end of the day, we are all the customers of these phone companies and they would do well to remember the power that we have - if only it were coordinated effectively…

We too feel the despair that Stroud must be feeling right now. We have thanked the regulatory committee for everything that they have done to support the people of Marlborough during the last three years. We have been constantly supported by our Town Councilors and by the Regulatory Planning Committee and are very grateful that they rejected permission, even though loosing an appeal will cost Kennet financially. I am sure that they are as dismayed by the decision as we are. We have written to ask them if the planning authority is prepared to challenge this decision in the High Court on behalf of those in Marlborough, on the grounds that this decision wasn't right, backing up their previous stance on the matter. We do not have the funds to take this to the High Court ourselves and so the bullying telecommunication company tactics win.

Naturally, I along with many of the residents living here, are devastated that this development can now proceed in our midst. Many firmly believe that the radiation from these structures is likely to cause health problems and illnesses in the future and simply do not agree with the comments made by the Inspector in the appeal decision and we have written to tell them so. There is much evidence being published regularly by various bodies but this Government chooses to ignore such findings.

Neither are many local residents in agreement with the views made by the Inspector - that in his opinion - the visual impact will be of an acceptable level and would not have a detrimental impact on the settings of listed buildings. We clearly will be subjected to these eyesores everyday. We asked whether the Planning Committee agrees with the inspector that this development will comply with Policies HH5, HH8, NR8, PPS7 and PPG8?

Despite numerous concerns raised by local residents in their objection letters only the two points seem to have been addressed: visual impact and health risks. No reference is made to concerns such as vehicular access and increased traffic to the site, economic impacts such as devalued property and the impact on local schools and impact of those families moving away are ignored. Neither is the issue of setting a precedent for all future telecommunication equipment in this location and that impact on Policy NR8 given any consideration.

Given that Kennet District Council has an obligation to protect the environment on our behalf, we have strongly urged that this decision should be challenged by the Council in order to comply with Article 130r of the European Treaties Act, which actively requires the protection of the environment, following a precautionary approach, preventing any type of environmental pollution at source. Kennet has a responsibility to provide a safe environment for those with disabilities and that includes the 15 - 25% of the population known to suffer with chemical and/or electromagnetic sensitivities who can experience debilitating reactions from exposure to extremely low levels of common chemicals such as pesticides, cleaning products, fragrances, and remodeling activities, and from electromagnetic fields emitted by computers, cell phones, and other electrical equipment. At present we have a choice about whether to use such products and devices in our homes but we will have no choice about the microwave irradiation about to be unleashed over us 24/7/365.

Outside and industrial noise pollution is another responsibility that Kennet has to protect us from under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Soon, many may well be troubled by low frequency noise or hum and no doubt be contacting the environmental health department at Kennet for help in order to simply sleep at night. The inspector states that noise levels generated by equipment must not exceed 10db(A) above the background noise level when measured at the boundary of adjoining properties (which means that to comply fully, the generated noise level would need to fluctuate with the background noise level). But, when is background noise to be measured? At night it is very quiet, in daytime the lorries can be extremely loud. If it were measured above this level, then the noise from equipment could be very loud at night, much above 10db(A) allowed by the inspector. The inspector’s decision could be challenged on these grounds alone as it is not quantifiable and is open to abuse by the equipment operators.

So much research is now available to support evidence of potential health issues that I believe it is irresponsible to allow this development to proceed. Everyone has been warned of potential risks, from tumors to cataracts and the decreased nighttime production of Nocturnal Melatonin and to ignore such advice brings the prospect of legal proceedings against Operators, Landowners and Planning Authorities ever nearer. The local people have made their views known clearly. The inspector’s decision represents the slow death of democracy and possibly the death of many who live in Marlborough, and, unfortunately, it would seem in Stroud too.

Pete

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Thanks, Sandi.... I am very grateful that you take the time to keep us all informed... I totally agree with you about consumer power. I haven't bought a 3g phone but sadly others do. We need to coordinate targeted boycots to become effective. Like Greenpeace did for example over the price of petrol and they encouraged people not to buy certain brands of petrol to send a message. We could sugggest people boycot a particular operator to make them listen. Or we could praise ones like O2 who have just listened to people at Pewsey, Wiltshire. I'll post the article as it may be a way forward for others. I'd like to see all the groups working together with one voice - thanks for the 'Voice of the People of the UK' info - I didn't know about that.

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Praise an operator? Not me, Pete! If an operator withdrew it would be for self-interested reasons, not out of consideration for the people. If they did consider the people, masts would not be insensitively sited and our human rights wouldn't be trampled into the dust and clouds of emissions!

Sandi

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You're right of couse, Sandi, silly me!!! Whatever was I thinking of? Just read '02 jumps in for the kill'

Pete

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Well, I was inclined to try to see the best in situations and people before I met my first TETRA mast, but after my initial "baptism by fire" I became more realistic and realised that there are tiddlers and killer sharks, and puppy dogs and wild dogs!

Sandi

--------

Dear Pete,

I post news articles when I have the time, so that you can all see what it going on in other parts of the country. I also add comments on these articles sometimes to try to inform people. This is the one I posted for Stroud:

As SWCoord and Director of Advisory Services for //www.mastsanity.org, a voluntary organisation with charity status which offers free advice and support for anyone with mast queries or problems, I can confirm that the feelings of the people of Stoud are mirrored across the UK.

All areas are concerned and indignant about the loss of amenity and the way the wishes of residents are being overridden in the phone masts issue.

It is particularly worrying that these masts are now intruding upon conservation areas and areas of outstanding natural beauty because PPG8 - Planning Policy, Environmental Considerations para 16 clearly states:

"In accordance with PPG7 high priority should be given to the need to safeguard areas of particular environmental importance. In National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty proposals should be sensitively designed and sited and the developer must demonstrate that there are no suitable alternative locations."

That there are health concerns to be consider is abundantly clear from the calls Mast Sanity receives on the advice line (08704 322 377 Mon to fri 1pm to 8pm).

Communities across the UK are unhappy that no meaningful research is being carried out in this country, as it is abroad.

Mast Sanity advises that people should contact their MPs if they are concerned, to ask them to back all calls for planning changes in line with a more sensitive and sensible siting of these masts.

Sandi Lawrence

I am also finding that communites are begining to join forces with other groups in their area to build a more formidable resistance, and to pack more power.

In some areas, six weekly peaceful protests are to be held to raise awareness of the discontent of the people.

Copies of the "Voice of the People of the UK" letter are being distributed for individuals or campaign groups to send to Government departments. A copy can be obtained by email from Redsunset37@aol.com

The other way of making your views known is by not buying 3G phones. If no one bought them, there would be no need for the masts!

Sandi

--------

Thanks, Sandi.... I am very grateful that you take the time to keep us all informed... I totally agree with you about consumer power. I haven't bought a 3g phone but sadly others do. We need to coordinate targeted boycots to become effective. Like Greenpeace did for example over the price of petrol and they encouraged people not to buy certain brands of petrol to send a message. We could sugggest people boycot a particular operator to make them listen. Or we could praise ones like O2 who have just listened to people at Pewsey, Wiltshire. I'll post the article as it may be a way forward for others. I'd like to see all the groups working together with one voice - thanks for the 'Voice of the People of the UK' info - I didn't know about that.

I have printed below a letter which I am sending to BT about the Marlborough BT Telephone Exchange masts.


Regards, Pete.

Naturally, I along with many of the residents living here, are devastated that this development can now proceed in our midst. Many firmly believe that the radiation from these structures is likely to cause health problems and illnesses in the future and simply do not agree with the comment made by the Inspector in point 11 of the appeal decision. There is much evidence being published regularly by various bodies but this Government chooses to ignore such findings.

Neither are many local residents in agreement with the views made by the Inspector in points 6 and 7. In his opinion the visual impact will be of an acceptable level and would not have a detrimental impact on the settings of listed buildings. We clearly will be subjected to these eyesores everyday.

Despite numerous concerns raised by local residents in their objection letters only the above two points seem to have been addressed. No reference is made to concerns such as vehicular access and increased traffic to the site, economic impacts such as devalued property and the impact on local schools and impact of those families moving away are ignored. Neither is the issue of setting a precedent for all future telecommunication equipment in this location and that impact on Policy NR8 given any consideration.

Is BT aware of its responsibility to comply with Article 130r of the European Treaties Act, which actively requires the protection of the environment, following a precautionary approach, preventing any type of environmental pollution at source? Has BT considered those with disabilities who live nearby, including the 15 - 25% of the population known to suffer with chemical and/or electromagnetic sensitivities who can experience debilitating reactions from exposure to extremely low levels of common chemicals such as pesticides, cleaning products, fragrances, and from electromagnetic fields emitted by computers, cell phones, and other electrical equipment. At present we do have a choice about whether to use such products and devices in our homes but we will have no choice about the microwave irradiation about to be unleashed over us 24/7/365.

Outside and industrial Noise pollution is another responsibility that BT has a responsibility to protect us from under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Soon, many may well be troubled by low frequency noise or hum and no doubt be contacting the environmental health department at Kennet for help in order to simply sleep at night. The inspector states that noise levels generated by equipment must not exceed 10db(A) above the background noise level when measured at the boundary of adjoining properties (which means that to comply fully, the generated noise level would need to fluctuate with the background noise level). But, when is background noise to be measured? At night it is very quiet, in daytime the lorries can be extremely loud. If it were measured above this level, then the noise from equipment could be very loud at night, much above 10db(A) allowed by the inspector. The inspector’s decision could be challenged on these grounds alone as it is not quantifiable and is open to abuse by the equipment operators.

So much research is now available to support evidence of potential health issues that I believe it is irresponsible to allow this development to proceed. Everyone has been warned of potential risks, from tumors to cataracts and the decreased night time production of Nocturnal Melatonin and to ignore such advice brings the prospect of legal proceedings against Operators, Landowners, in this case BT and Planning Authorities ever nearer.

One company, BT, is in a position to halt this particular development. But to do so would mean going against BT’s policy as stated below:

‘In November 2000, BT and Crown Castle UK entered into an agreement to provide infrastructure to 3G mobile and wireless operators. This should enable us to receive significant rental income through the development of the roof-space and surroundings of, initially, 4,000 of our exchange buildings. The programme has the potential to be extended to cover all of our operational buildings. Agreements have been signed with three of the 3G licence holders, including BT Wireless, for use of the combined BT and Crown Castle portfolio’.

It appears that the above policy is based purely upon generating revenue and that 4,000 exchanges will be used whatever their location. So much for the - ‘most suitable location for operational needs’ - as so often quoted in planning applications. BT is determined to put masts on its exchanges regardless of the views of neighbouring residents or their concern for their immediate environments.

Interestingly BT are keen to attract customers, remember the ‘Come back to BT adverts? You even have a policy: ‘BT Wireless’strategy is to attract and retain high-value customers and increase revenues per customer by positioning itself as a leader in the European mobile data market’. Well BT, in case it hasn’t dawned on you yet, we are your customers, and the customers of O2 and Hutchinson and all the other mobile phone operators. And, if you don’t treat your customers’ right, you loose them. Yes, we want mobile phone technology, but not at any cost. You would do well to listen to what people are saying in the countless communities that you are bullying up and down the country. Take heed before it is too late. Site phone masts in positions that people find acceptable and consider your neighbours. They have been good neighbours and customers to you over the years and in Marlborough t he local people have made their views known clearly. They do not want the mobile phone masts on the exchange.

BT could reverse its decision in this case and ask the operators to withdraw their application for a mast and suggest they use alternative sites on the edge of Marlborough. They could even move the telephone exchange to a more appropriate purpose built building with transmission facilities on the new industrial site in the town. The existing exchange could be sold off for housing development to provide revenue to fund the project. You could take the lead from the recent case in nearby Pewsey where "Reluctantly O2 have agreed to withdraw their application in order to satisfy community feeling." How much more respect the local community now have for that company and their brave decision than we currently have for BT in Marlborough.

In this case the inspector’s decision represents the slow death of democracy and possibly the death of many who live here. BT may soon find to their cost that ignoring their local neighbours will cost them more financially than the revenue from masts on a roof will ever generate.
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