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Campaigners win phone mast battle
United Kingdom Created: 15 Nov 2009
CAMPAIGNERS against an application for a mobile phone mast in Ponteland hope its refusal will make the company behind it look elsewhere.

Members of Northumberland County Council's West Planning Committee unanimously voted against the bid by Telefonica O2 for a 15m high pole at The Broadway, Darras Hall, following more than 200 objections by local residents.

The council also refused the firm's original plans for a 12.5m mast 200m from the second site in May, which sparked equal outrage as it would have been outside Darras Hall First School.

But it is legally allowed to place it there because the first refusal was invalid, as it did not happen within the required 56 days of the application being received.

One of the campaigners, Darras Hall resident Sunil Mehra, believes the phone giant should now go for an alternative site away from residential areas.

He said: "There were more than 230 letters of objection, so residents certainly made their voices heard and Northumberland County Council listened.

"Both O2's applications for a mast in front of a first school were reckless. Both applications faced fierce objection and both were inconsiderate.

"O2 has been refused planning twice on Broadway this year, so if it was to pursue the original site, it would be wholly irresponsible on the part of the company and its agent, Steve Baker.

"It's time it listened to the community and the community says 'no to O2'.

"If O2 takes its corporate social responsibility ethos seriously, it will comfort the community by assuring people that it will not build a mast in the heart of this residential area and will pursue talks with local farmers instead."

The company agreed to discuss a different site with the council despite the planning blunder, but argued a mast is required in Darras Hall to improve its 3G mobile coverage in the area.

Regional Communications Manager for O2, Tom Powell, said: "We have received the formal notice from the local planning authority and are now waiting for details of potential alternative sites.

"Once we have them, we will have talks with officers to try and find a way forward."
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Source: Morpeth Herald, ANDREW COULSON, 14 nov 2009

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