Wednesday, 14 March 2007

What to do about a mast in the wrong place?

I like gadgets as much as anyone, and I recognise that my latest 3G handset or laptop data card means someone, somewhere ends up with a mobile phone mast near them. It would be hypocritical of me therefore to oppose masts on principle. However, sometimes you come across a mast application that seems almost designed to cause maximum concern, and we have one in Winterbourne at the moment.

Phone company O2 want to put a mast at a telephone exchange in Nicholls Lane. Sounds reasonable enough, until you discover that the exchange is literally right next to a primary school and nursery. You don't have to be hysterical or unscientific to think that at a time when we are still not certain about the long-term impact of masts, this doesn't seem to be a risk worth taking. The independent Stewart Report argued against having masts where schools were in the immediate vicinity.

The problem is that the planning system is deliberately very weak when it comes to masts - dating back more than two decades to when the Government of the day was desperate to get a mobile phone industry rolled out rapidly.

This afternoon I am hosting a meeting between representatives of O2 and campaigners against the mast. We probably can't force them to change their mind, but it's hard to believe that there isn't a less sensitive site that they couldn't look at.

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