27
Aug
2005

LEGAL LOOPHOLE ENDS MAST FIGHT

Kent and Sussex Courier

15:00 - 26 August 2005

Residents in North Tonbridge are distraught after losing a battle over the erection of a phone mast in their road.

Contractors working for T-Mobile have been given the final go-ahead to continue work at the junction between Hunt Road and Constable Road, after a legal investigation showed the land owners had no powers to prevent it.

The triangle of land is owned by housing association Russet Homes, which acquired it in 1991.

When work started at the site two weeks ago Russet Homes requested T-Mobile stop as it had not been granted permission.

As previously reported in the Kent and Sussex Courier, Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council originally refused planning permission for the 11.7m high mast in June last year but permission was granted on appeal in March.

However, Russet Homes still refused to give the permission needed before work could begin.

On August 8 work was suspended while both sides approached their solicitors for legal advice.

However, head of housing management at Russet Homes Anthony Cross revealed on Monday that although the association owned the land, it had been adopted by Kent County Council which maintained it as part of the highway.

He said: "Having sought legal advice, unfortunately Russet Homes has no powers to prevent erection of the mast on the land that forms part of the highway."

Mr Cross was disappointed with the decision and said Russet Homes shared the residents' concern of placing the mast in the heart of a residential area.

Residents were concerned over the health and visual impact of the slim-line monopole that will support three antennas and a microwave dish.

They were also angry it has been allowed in a residential area that lies between Woodland Infant and Junior Schools and the playgroup, at the Methodist Church.

Chairman of Higham Road Residents Association Peter Reed who led the campaign against the mast said: "This legal loophole apparently allows T-Mobile to go ahead with the mast as a utility."

He added: "T-Mobile is saying it has to have all these masts but we feel there is no necessity for it as the reception for 3G mobile telephones here is adequate."

Hunt Road resident Betty O'Loughlin said: "I am devastated. Surely they could have found somewhere without people and babies walking past to get to the school?"

A spokesman for T-Mobile said the operator had similar rights of access to such land as other utilities, of which there was ample evidence on this site.

It has already put the foundations in place and is currently finalising the details of when work will start.
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