Express and Echo Devon

12:00 - 29 August 2005

Campaigners against a mobile phone mast on a 'gateway' route into Exeter have seen what they had believed to be a planning victory being turned into a defeat on appeal. Last March, telecommunications giant Vodafone applied for planning permission under the 'prior approval' procedure to erect a 10-metre high mast on a green space close to the junction of Sweetbrier Lane and Honiton Road in Heavitree.

But 37 nearby householders objected, many citing health fears.

Councillors on the city's development control committee voted six to three to block the bid, on the grounds the mast would be an eyesore on one of Exeter's busiest 'gateway' roads.

But Vodafone has now overturned the original decision with a successful appeal to Whitehall planning inspectors.

The city council, as the local planning authority, and the objectors can take the battle to the High Court, but both feel more expensive legal wrangling would be unlikely to succeed.

Retired Church of England vicar the Reverend Vincent Gillett, who lives on Honiton Road, organised opposition to the mast in his capacity as Secretary of the Heavitree Bridge Association.

He said: "We don't seem to have any mechanism for democracy any more for local communities to express themselves.

"We weren't allowed to make representations to the inspectors or be present at his site inspection. I don't see how we can take it any further. We simply don't have the money for a High Court action."

He said the question of whether such masts caused health risks was unresolved, and residents felt the mast and equipment would clutter up the first green space on the approach to the city.

A city council spokeswoman said the authority could now only challenge the decision on technical grounds.

Vodafone said all its masts emitted at a level many times lower than advised in currently recognised international guidelines. It said the mast design was in keeping with the area's character.

Omega see to this theme "Base Stations, operating within strict national and international Guidelines, do not present a Health Risk":


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August 2005

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