6
Sep
2005

Birmingham Council: City may lift phone mast ban - We are unlikely to overcome it in time to save ourselves and our children

Birmingham Council’s brave stand to refuse masts near schools is probably doomed to failure if it has to go up against Prescott. He could be reminded of his infamous legal challenge, but as we all know, he never had any intention of winning that battle – and he will certainly not support B’ham council in this – he will hide behind the law he made!

My (purely personal) view is that there is really only one way to fight this and win. People Power. If Birmingham parents took their children out of those schools which were near masts, and refused to let them go back until the masts were removed – the government would HAVE to take notice, especially if the publicity triggered mass action further afield ie nationwide. This direct action by parents would be a huge embarrassment to the Government, and could have the potential to force a change of policy. It’s the scale of the action that would determine its success. If it was big enough, what government would want to be seen as going up against parents, city / nationwide, whose only crime is to put their childrens’ health before the profits of global big business? It’s not a vote winner! And they have Stewart’s recommendation as a weapon to further embarrass Prescott and Blair.

As a charity I realise we can no longer suggest or even hint at direct action, let alone do it. A great shame, I think. Dr Ian Gibson MP seems to support direct action and expressed amazement that it wasn’t happening. Frankly, with 3G going up like there was no tomorrow, I think our efforts of gentle persuasion and convincing scientific arguments, laudable though they undoubtedly are, mean very little to the powers that be. They may not be laughing at us any more, in fact I’m sure they now take us very seriously, but so what, if all they do is propose limited action in some distant future, when they know it will be too late. That’s the Government/Industry tactic we face - and we are unlikely to overcome it in time to save ourselves and our children. That is the reality.

I do not write this as a member of Mast Sanity, but as someone who is angry and frustrated by the complete lack of morality of this government. As a private individual therefore, I desperately hope that campaigns across the country will ask themselves what tactics they can employ to achieve their goal. Perhaps removing their children from schools near masts might triumph where prayers and reasoned argument have failed.

Jenny

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This is the link to the full Birmingham Post report

The message is ready to be sent with the following file or link attachments: Shortcut to:
//icbirmingham.icnetwork.co.uk/birminghampost/news/tm_objectid=15936910%26method=full%26siteid=50002%26headline=city%2dmay%2dlift%2dphone%2dmast%2dban%2d-name_page.html

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Jen, I've just been talking to Lynne Insley (SCRAM) about this, because I wasn't aware that BCC had taken this decision, and I wanted to check that I hadn't missed anything while I was away. It turns out that Lynne and the rest of the SCRAM committee aren't aware of this policy either - so none of us campaigners have been consulted or informed about this policy, which seems very strange, as the Scrutiny Committee which was responsible for lifting the ban on masts on Council Land have all of our contact details, and usually fall over themselves to be 'seen' to act even when they've no intention of representing the public. Certainly, the fiasco I witnessed on the day the ban was lifted was a disgrace, and we were sold out completely. So, in a nutshell, I smell a rat with regards to this policy, and suspect that it is a publicity stunt by BCC to offset their atrocious performance when they lifted the ban....BUT....if it turns out to be a genuine move on the part of the City Council, rest assured that there will be a very high profile campaign, and Two Jags Prezzer will find that he has bitten off more than he can chew, as his colleagues in the education department could well be cursing him - there are already parents in nearby North Warwickshire keeping their children off school because of the masts at Coleshill (their MP is Solicitor General Mike O'brien). If Bham City Council are acting honestly, (for a change) then I forsee a lot of action!

Take care,

Amanda

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The plot thickens then! Thanks a lot for the info Amanda - so good to hear from you and to know that it's all happening down there, and the b....'s aren't going to be allowed to get away with anything. Massive direct action could win the day. Whatever BCC's motives, in the end it's going to be down to the parents. They need to band together and act in force. You know the old saying 'United we stand, divided we fall ...' You take care, too! Jenny

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City may lift phone mast ban

Sep 6 2005

Birmingham Post

By Paul Dale, Chief Reporter

An attempt by Birmingham City Council to stop mobile phone masts being sited close to schools and hospitals could be declared illegal.

The Government Office for the West Midlands has lodged an objection to the council's telecommunications policy, which it says is out of step with national planning guidelines.

There should be no no-go areas for masts, according to the Government.

GOWM's decision could lead to formal intervention by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, forcing the council to backtrack.

A report to the council cabinet sets out GOWM's view that the introduction of sensitive areas where masts would not normally be permitted could inhibit the growth of telecommunications systems.

Local authorities should not seek to exclude masts from certain areas, according to GOWM.

Council planners say their policy is justified given the concerns expressed in the 2004 Stewart Report, which raised the possibility that radiation from masts could be harmful, particularly to children.

In its response to GOWM, the council said: "The main objective of the policy is to ensure that there is full consideration of alternatives and that telecommunications equipment is sited in optimal locations which take account of technical considerations, visual obtrusiveness and other amenity issues.

"There is no blanket ban or cordon sanitaire, nor does the policy define a minimum distance between telecommunications equipment and existing development.

"The policy does not state that all applications within sensitive areas should be refused, but that they should be avoided in such areas, where possible."

Mick Wilkes, chairman of the council's main scrutiny committee, who championed the sensitive sites policy, said it was significant that none of the mobile phone companies had objected to the stance on schools and hospitals.

Coun Wilkes (Lib Dem Hall Green) added: "The intervention by the Government Office seems unhelpful and out of kilter with what most people would regard as a desirable policy.

"We should not yield ground on this issue because we are absolutely right."

Operators are seeking about 200 new sites in Birmingham to help to roll out the third generation of mobile phones.

Earlier this year the council lifted a ban on siting new masts on local authority property.

The masts row is one of several issues raised by people and organisations objecting to modifications to the Birmingham Unitary Development Plan - setting out development rules over the next decade.

Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency, is opposing the council's wishes to promote only high-technology employment in the A38 Central Technology Belt, which includes the MG Rover site at Longbridge.

AWM believes the policy is inflexible and that other uses should be allowed.

Supermarket giants Sainsbury's is also objecting on the grounds that all large sites have been allocated for hightech employment.

Other retail operators are objecting to the council's " restrictive" policy making it difficult to obtain planning permission for superstores on sites close to the outer ring road.

Companies including Tesco and Morrison want the council to undertake a study to discover the extent of consumer demand for supermarkets.

Is the council right to ban mobile phone masts near schools and hospitals?

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Councillor Wilkes is the very same man who stood in the Council Chamber and told Councillors that they could not vote against lifting the ban if they used a Mobile! As he's the head of the scrutiny committee responsible for the lifting of the ban, it's ironic that he's referred to in the article as the instigator of a ban which the City Council must know that the ODPM are going to block, they were given enough evidence. I could, of course, be mistaken, and there is always the possibility that BCC might just put their money where their mouth is. I've sent the following email hedging bets:

The City Council should certainly stand their ground on this issue and act in accordance with the Precautionary Principle. However, if the ban on masts on Council Properties/land had not been lifted, the Council would have at least been able to keep the power to refuse masts on their land near to schools.

If the arrogance and doublespeak of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to date is anything to go by, the City Council will be steamrollered into submission.

We have a number of examples of he ODPM's failure to intervene effectively in cases where they could and should have, Winchester and Harrogate among them. It will be interesting to see how much effort they put into this intervention.

It is up to parents and residents to support a ban on masts near schools and nurseries by making their views known to the City Council and to the ODPM.

Any parents who are concerned and want to contact the relevant departments should contact the Scrutiny Committee to support the ban, and also their MPs and the ODPM if possible.

Any parents or residents requiring further information concerning masts near to schools etc can email amanda.wesley@mastsanity.org or visit
//www.mastsanity.org or //www.scram.uk.com

Advantage West Midlands are also one of the sponsors of a project to provide young people with Mobiles that we complained about a while ago, I remember being incensed and asking John Hemming, who was then deputy leader of Bham CC and is now MP for Yardley South, where their funding came from. He told me that they get their funding from the Government, not the Local Authority, so there can be no mistake about whose interests are being represented by 'Advantge' West Midlands!

I'll pass some information on to one of our local journos and see if they pick it up, but there is so much corruption in this nest of vipers that I believe that our local rag are also wary about who they upset, as has been the case in the past.

Amanda
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