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Celebrity backing for battle to block mast plan
Scotland Created: 22 Mar 2011
IT has been the setting for many a middle-class revolt over the years but the latest row engulfing Glasgow’s west end is no laughing matter for two of the country’s leading comedy professionals.

The latest G12 community backlash has been prompted by plans to erect a mobile phone mast on a B-listed church spire, with the campaign spearheaded by Rab C Nesbitt creator Ian Pattison and controversial comic Frankie Boyle.

Mobile phone giant Vodafone wants to erect the 20ft-high mast at St Bride’s Church in Hyndland Road, with the proposal expected to go before the city council’s planning committee if more than three objections are submitted.

Opponents have been mobilising and have been given added impetus with the involvement of two powerhouses of the Scottish cultural scene.

Concerns range from the grey area over the impact on health through to the heritage impact on one of Scotland’s best-known conservation areas.

Ironically, the last series of Rab C Nesbitt featured a prescient storyline in which a phone company entered into a deal with a church to have a mast erected on its spire and the church changing its name to St Vodafone’s.

But St Bride’s, like most other places of Christian worship, is suffering from dwindling congregations and will receive a much-needed cash injection over 10 years from the Vodafone deal.

Ian Pattison said: “The local community is really worried about this. The mobile phone companies say there is no proven health scare but what does that mean?

“Just two years ago it was reported that seven clusters of cancer and other serious illnesses were discovered around mobile phone masts.

“Studies of the sites showed high incidences of cancer, brain haemorrhages and high blood pressure. One of the studies, in Warwickshire, showed a cluster of 31 cancers around a single street. Is this something we wish to see replicated in Glasgow’s west end?

“The church is in agreement with this installation but you have to consider St Bride’s are receiving a substantial payment for this. And of the congregation of around 140-150 in total, only around 40-50 turn up each week. Most do not live in the immediate neighbourhood.”

Campaigners against the mast have raised the proximity of a children’s nursery, a GP’s practice and communal gardens 20 yards from the church, while Vodafone has been accused of arranging public meetings at times of the day when there will be a low turn-out.

Jim Meldrum, who lives in nearby Kingsborough Gardens, said the plans were undermining investment by the community in improving the heritage appeal of the Hyndland area.

He said: “We’ve helped raise £60,000 for replicas of the original lighting in the area and are looking at restoring the railings lost during the Second World War at a cost of £140,000 but this just undermines all we’re doing.”

A Vodafone spokesman said: “The Hyndland area of Glasgow is predominantly residential in nature and we believe that the chosen location at St Bride’s Church is the most preferable option. The proposal is to place a replica flag pole on the roof of the church tower whilst the ancillary equipment will be housed inside the church. Given that the surrounding area is characterised by a number of substantial residential properties it was felt that a replica flag pole would be the most sensitive design option we could use.”

He added that the company took health concerns seriously and that exposure to radio frequency fields was “typically hundreds to thousands of times lower than the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection guidelines”.

Glasgow’s west end remains one of the few inner city areas in the UK outside London with a “campaign culture”, where celebrities have lent their support.

Hollywood star Robert Carlyle and Still Game stars Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill rallied against plans for a nightclub in the city’s Botanic Gardens, while Franz Ferdinand and Belle And Sebastian championed the cause of the near-derelict Kelvingrove bandstand.
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Source: Herald Scotland, Brian Beacom and Gerry Braiden, 22 Mar 2011

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