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Ban on mobile phone masts in Solihull set to end
United Kingdom Created: 17 Sep 2019
A stance that the council took in the 1990s - amid fears about whether the technology posed a health risk - could be dropped, with a national drive to improve 5G coverage.

A long-standing ban on installing mobile phone masts on council-owned land and buildings in Solihull looks set to end.

For more than 20 years the local authority has followed a policy laid out when there was greater concern about the possible health risks of electronic communications equipment.

In 1992, councillors had agreed to refuse future requests to erect microwave dishes on its property and, five years later, two applications to install radio antennae were dismissed - setting a further precedent.

While telecoms giants have been able to use "statutory powers" to override the council stance when it comes to highways, the policy has effectively remained in place elsewhere.

But a new report suggests Solihull will need to "review" its historic position in response to the government's drive to increase 5G coverage, with town halls being urged to remove obstacles facing operators.

Failing to do would go against the nationwide Electronic Communications Code, recently updated, and leave the local authority open to a legal challenge from companies, it has been suggested.

Although any application would still need to go through the standard planning process.

Council officer Martin Clayton said: "The explicit aim of the reforms, which are embodied in the ‘barrier busting’ measures recommended by both government and WMCA [West Midlands Combined Authority], is to make it easier and more cost effective for network providers to deploy and maintain digital infrastructure."

The decisions taken in the 1990s came at a time when there was widespread uncertainty about the possible impact that the technology could have on people's health.

In his report, Mr Clayton has said that scientific research over the last two decades has considered these fears.

Advice quoted on Public Health England's website said: "Independent expert groups in the UK and at international level have examined the accumulated body of research evidence.

"Their conclusions support the view that health effects are unlikely to occur if exposures are below international guideline levels."

Although a recent row over a mast installed in Yardley Wood Road, Solihull Lodge, proves the issue still has power to cause controversy.

Proposals to review the "moratorium" adopted in the 1990s will be discussed at tonight's (Monday's) meeting of the resources and delivering value scrutiny board.

The issue will then be considered by the council's cabinet at its next meeting on October 10.
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Source: Birmingham Live, David Irwin, 16 Sep 2019

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