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Council apology for IT blunder that has given mobile mast by three schools the green light
United Kingdom Created: 2 Aug 2017
Greenwich council has apologised for an “IT mistake” which has resulted in a 12,5m mobile mast close to three schools getting the go ahead.

Residents said they were completely devastated that despite a massive campaign against the development, and the refusal of council planning permission, Vodafone has consent to build a telecommunications mast at the rear of 133 Westcombe Hill (Siebert Road) in Blackheath.

The council refused planning permission for the mast in November and so residents were shocked to see contractors arrive to start work last week. Greenwich council is now trying to see if the mast can still be stopped through other means.
In a subsequent letter of apology written to residents the council states: “Regretfully, and due to a systems error, the application wasn’t determined within the 56-day period which means it is deemed to be consented and the mast can now be installed provided all the other permissions are obtained. It is extremely unfortunate that the application wasn’t determined in 56 days, given representations objecting to the scheme were made.”

It is the second time this year the council has had to make such an apology. In May it was forced to explain why Vodafone had begun work on a mast close to Foxfield Primary School in Raglan Road, Woolwich, despite a huge number of objections made by the community. In that instance the mistake in missing the 56-day cut off was attributed to “human error”.

The council halted works in Westcombe Hill last week on grounds that it had not issued a highway permit for the use of the land. The council said in its letter to residents that it understood “the land in question is the responsibility of Transport for London (TfL), who as land owner has to agree the installation of the mast with the applicant.”

It noted that it has approached Tfl to make them aware of the situation. However TfL told The Mercury it does not own the land and it believes it is actually owned by Highways England.
Resident Nathalie Golden told The Mercury: “Everyone is completely devastated by this especially as there was such a massive campaign against the mast – the community really pulled together. And then it was heartening that the council agreed with us and rejected it – and then to find out it is to go ahead due to mismanagement is just terribly sad.
“Everyone thought the site was completely inappropriate as it was so close to three schools.”

The campaigners were concerned about the possible impact on the health of children from radiation, particularly as the site is less than 30 metres away from MEFA Montessori School and close to both Invicta Primary School and Greenwich Steiner School’s Kirkside Road site. Ms Golden said: “We are grateful for the council’s efforts now to do what they can to change the situation – but rules are rules especially in the area of planning permission.
“The council has told everyone the glitch has been fixed but one wonders how many other applications there are that might be affected.”

A spokeswoman for Greenwich council said: “The Royal Borough listened and responded to residents’ objections to this phone mast. Planning permission was therefore refused on November 14, 2016. An IT fault regrettably resulted in this decision coming after the legal 56-day period and therefore planning permission was attained ‘by default.’
“We apologise to residents and are determined, going forward, to make sure that all works on the site only proceed with the landowner’s permission.”

A Vodafone spokeswoman told the Mercury: “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 identified that they need to improve the coverage to their customers in Blackheath and we now have consent for a base station on Siebert Road. We have received a query on the land ownership at the proposed location and are currently investigating this point.
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Source: South London Press & Mercury, Mandy Little, 02 Aug 2017

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