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Wells campaign sees 'monster' phone mast rejected - residents on another city street seek to defeat a similar plan by Vodafone
United Kingdom Created: 11 Jul 2017
Many people want better mobile coverage but when it comes to having a large mobile phone mast yards from your home, the issue is proving highly contentious in Somerset.

A plan for a 17.5m phone mast in Wells branded 'monster' by residents was rejected by planners despite being recommended for prior approval after a big protest by residents.

The Vodafone proposal in Strawberry Way generated a petition and hundreds of comments and planners refused it.

Local people told Somerset Live they weren't against masts but they didn't want them in densely populated areas.

But the company is still planning to site another slightly smaller mast in a different part of the city where residents are staging another battle. Vodafone says it is responding to demand.

People in Bath Road say they are concerned about about possible health risks as well as the impact on their living environment. The 15m mast will be just yards from people's front doors, outside the Budgens store. A similar plan by the phone giant a few hundred yards away was shelved just months ago.

We should point out that Vodafone states there is no evidence for these concerns.

A spokeswoman said base stations worked well within guideline safety limits and there was 'no evidence' of adverse health effects for any members of the public.

Katie Biddiscombe lives on Bath Road - the mast will be a few feet from her front gate. She met with James Heappey MP this week at the site to express her concerns.

"My number one concern is for my children's health," said the 37-year-old mother-of-two.

"At the moment we can make an informed choice about how often we have the Wifi on and we do try to limit it."

Mrs Biddiscombe's nine-year-old son is on the autistic spectrum and she believes he would be particularly sensitive to radio waves emitted by such a mast.

"At the moment I notice a difference in his behaviour if we restrict the Wifi," she said.

"But we wouldn't be able to make a choice if the mast was there."

David James, 54, is also concerned about health risks.

"I worry about the children living here," he said.

"We just don't understand why the mast can't be further from people's homes - there is council land close-by."

A primary concern for many is cancer, but Cancer Research UK states that despite the rocketing use of mobile phones, the rate of brain tumours hasn't changed dramatically since the 1990s.

However it does say it is possible that incidence rates would only start rising after more time.

It quotes from an independent report in 2012 which says "there is no convincing evidence that being exposed to radiofrequency fields, including those from mobile phones, within the guidelines could affect somebody's health".

It also says masts and base stations are unlikely to increase your cancer risk and the exposure you get from a base station is actually "at least 100 times below international guidelines.... and much less than the exposure you would get from a phone".


-Health risks to the young and elderly in respect of electro-magnetic radiation
-The design and appearance of the mast and its equipment boxes are not in keeping with the area and it will tower over their homes
-The siting of the mast could be a hazard to pedestrians / drivers as it is near the entrance to Budgens as well as numerous driveways
-The mast and cabinet will obstruct a sizeable percentage of the pathway
-Two schools are in close proximity

What James Heappey said to residents

Mr Heappey explained that his powers were limited with regard to local planning issues of this kind but he did pledge to look into the concerns raised by residents - including health worries.

He said he was inundated by calls for better connectivity and band width. He praised efforts by Somerset Live and others in raising that issue but said:

"The problem is that where those masts go can be really contentious.

"I've been listening to people air their concerns over plans for a mast in Bath Road and it's clear that the planning authority needs to listen to those concerns."

What Vodafone says...

"Vodafone and O2 customers expect to be able to use their mobiles and devices where they live, work and travel.

"Base stations are low powered devices which cover approximately half a mile in radius, therefore we have to put base stations close to our customers.

"Vodafone and O2 have identified that they need to improve the coverage to their customers in Wells.

"All Vodafone and O2 base stations operate well within guideline safety limits, below these guidelines there is no evidence of adverse health effects for any members of the public."

What the local Mendip Council member says...

Councillor Roy Mackenzie said he opposed the plan on the grounds that it was in a conservation area, and that it was larger and more intrusive than a mast that had already been rejected in the same road.

*The consultation period for the plan ran out on June 23 but you can view the plan online at Mendip District Council
http://publicaccess.mendip.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=OFAPJTKPMIF00
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Somerset Live, Andrew Doyle, 08 Jul 2017

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