Mass protest at plan to put mast near school

25 August 2005 | 10:37 Affron Walden Reporter (Essex)

PROTESTORS turned out in force to oppose plans to build a new mobile phone mast near a primary school.

Two hundred teachers and parents of children at Manuden Primary School braved heavy rain to take part in a demonstration and wave placards outside the school, in The Street, on Monday.

The campaigners are concerned about the health implications of mobile phone company Orange's plans to install the mast at Bentfield Bury Farm, just 350 metres away from the school.

One mother, who did not wish to be named, has a child starting at the pre-school, which is on the same site, in September.

She feared the signal emitting from the mast increased the risk of anyone living or working near it getting cancer, and could not understand why Orange wanted to site the pole there when there was plenty of countryside nearby where it could be placed away from residential areas.

An application for an alternative site in a more rural area had been turned down because some rare plants needed protecting, but she did not think environmental concerns should come before the potential health risks to the schoolchildren.

She said: "There are fields for miles around that village with nobody near. There is absolutely no reason to put the mast near the school."

Linda Talbot, the school's headteacher, quoted the Stewart Report conducted by the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones, which was set up by the government to assess the possible health effects from mobile phones, base stations and transmitters.

This concluded that it was not possible to say that exposure to radiation from the Radio Frequency emissions from the masts was totally without potentially adverse health effects.

It recommended that if a mast was sited within or near school grounds then the strongest signal should not fall on any part of the school.

The headteacher also believed the company had deliberately timed the submission of the application for approval by Uttlesford District Council to coincide with the summer holidays so there would be less opposition as parents would be away.

She said: "If this is approved, it will be a disaster for the school and the village."

Orange is planning to build the mast, which will stand 20 metres high and have six antennae, four dishes and six pack equipment cabinets.

The company needs to boost the signal in the area around Manuden and can not place it in a more rural location because the signal would not reach the homes.

An Orange spokeswoman said the mast had to be placed on higher ground in order to cover the village because it was in a valley and the Bentfield Bury Farm site was one of two sites being considered in Manuden.

But the company chose the former because it was further away from residential homes and screened from view by trees.

"Many people view mobile technology as a new invention and believe that we should be cautious until we know what the effects may be.

"However, mobile phones are just a new way of using old technology. RF has been around for over 40 years and there are many other forms of RF in our environment whether we are at home, in a classroom or outside.

Omega mobile phones are no new way of using old technology. One cannot compare the dangerous, pulsed microwave radiation with RF.

"The mobile phone handsets themselves emit a signal 24/7 whether they are in use or not as they are constantly searching for the nearest mast to communicate with," the spokeswoman said.

Orange's plans will be considered for approval by the district council's development control commmittee in September.


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August 2005

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