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Company ignores huge opposition to phone mast
United Kingdom Created: 30 Dec 2009
A TELECOMS company has decided to put up a mobile phone mast in a Ponteland residential area, despite huge opposition.
Using a planning technicality, Telefonica O2 has decided to go ahead with its original plans for a 12.5m mast at The Broadway, Darras Hall, which will be next to Darras Hall First School.

Hundreds of objections were received in total for this application, submitted in March, and a second later this year for a 15m high pole about 200m away from the original site, with concerns including the negative visual impact and the potential health impacts of electromagnetic radiation.

Both were rejected by members of Northumberland County Council's West Planning Committee, but the company is legally allowed to place it on the first proposed site 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 have been able to find an alternative site away from residential areas.

"O2 is taking advantage of a mistake and paying no notice to the fact that a proposed site further away from the school was rejected," he said.

"It's absolutely shocking that the company is bullying the local community by going ahead with the site with no regard for our feelings and wishes.

"I don't expect residents to take this quietly, but it remains to be seen what will happen now.

"The very fact that Orange can provide 3G coverage in this area away from homes and schools shows that it can be done and I'm disappointed that O2 has rejected these sites."

The company agreed to discuss different sites 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.

James Stevenson, Communications Manager for O2, said: "We looked carefully at some of the alternatives suggested by the council and local community, but found that none of them were suitable for what we want to achieve.

"The best option for everyone is to share a mast with another company, but in this area none of them matched our criteria.

"The invitation is still open for local residents to meet with me so I can discuss our plans with them."

O2 has also said that many scientific studies across the world have stated there is no evidence that mobile phone masts pose a health risk.
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Source: Morpeth Herald, ANDREW COULSON, 24 Dec 2009

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