'£200 seems like pay-off'

Sep 13 2005

By Paul Rhys, South London Press

A BILL for almost £17,000 has been slapped on planners who failed to consult properly over the installation of a phone mast.

Scores of people complained when the T-Mobile mast was set up on Camberwell College of Arts in Peckham Road last year.

Their case went to the Local Government Ombudsman - a watchdog on councils - which has ruled that Southwark council's incomplete consultation constituted an injustice.

It has asked the council to pay 83 residents £200 each - a total of £16,600.

Objector Nathan Morris, 70, a retired accounts assistant of Brunswick Park, said: "It's not just that we weren't consulted - there's documented evidence these things could be a health risk.

"The money just seems like a payoff."

Another objector, NHS consultant Giuseppe Spoto, 59, of Camberwell Grove, said: "It's not enough to say it would have been built even if we did have chance to object. If the procedure was wrong it should be pulled down."

An application to install the mast was originally lodged in July 2003.

The council dismissed it as incompatible with the local conservation area, but a revised application was lodged that October.

Southwark put up a notice and advertised in the press - but didn't write to 83 residents whose objections had previously been collected by Brunswick Park Labour councillor Ian Wingfield.

No objections were therefore considered and the application was approved by officers without going to a planning committee.

In a report the ombudsman said there were "no grounds to refuse the application because of perceived local health risks".

He added the mast was well-concealed and had little visual impact on nearby houses.

But Cllr Wingfield remains unhappy with the outcome.

He said: "Whether residents get £200 or £2million, it's not good enough.

"The council made an illegal decision and didn't follow its own procedures.

"What confidence can the public have if they don't put right the damage?"

A council spokeswoman said they'd received the recommendation and were considering the findings.


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September 2005

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