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Government faces legal challenge over 5G phone masts 'safety fears'
United Kingdom Created: 1 Oct 2020
The government’s rollout of the 5G mobile network is facing a High Court legal challenge amid safety fears around the new generation of phone masts.

Ministers announced in July it was relaxing planning permission requirements for the extension and upgrade of phone masts around the country, to accelerate the implementation of the 5G network.

Today, a judicial review was launched into that decision, challenging the consultation carried out, accusing civil servants of withholding key scientific data from ministers before the decision was made, and claiming that safety fears around 5G masts have not be allayed.

Among the parties to the legal challenge is Phillip Watts, a retired engineer and trustee of the EM Radiation Research Trust, who says his health has suffered from living close to a phone mast.

“While there is so much concern around health issues associated with 5G infrastructure, it cannot be right to give mobile phone companies carte blanche to invade our cities, towns, communities and residential streets with controversial technology," he said.

Another of the claimants is Brian Stein CBE, the former chief executive of food manufacturing firm Samworth Brothers Ltd who has also campaigned about the effects of mobile phone technology.

“The jury is clearly still out on the long-term impacts of exposure to mobile phone radiation”, he said. “Given the lack of consensus even amongst the scientific community, it is just not right that the government has recently decided to remove barriers for the mobile phone companies to roll out this controversial new technology, rather than making sure more time for consideration is built in to every stage.

“I myself have suffered health issues which I am convinced are a direct result of living close to a mobile phone mast, so I am personally very disappointed – as well as concerned for others - in the government’s stance.”

The legal claim was lodged today by law firm Learmond Criqui Sokel, with top barrister David Wolfe QC due to lead the court challenge.

It is claimed the Housing, Communities and Local Government and Digital, Culture, Media and Sport departments did not conduct a proper consultation on the decision to relax planning permission requirements on 5G masts.

Campaigners say at least 400,000 masts are due to be installed as the 5G network is expanded, and they claim pre-claim correspondence with the government shows an “entire body of detailed, cross-referenced and evidenced scientific material” on radiation and possible health impact of masts was kept from ministers.

“When questions about risk to public health have been raised, it is simply not right for civil servants to take it upon themselves to withhold vital scientific and other evidence”, said lawyer Jessica Learmond-Criqui.

Campaigners want the court to declare the government’s decision-making process as unlawful and order a fresh consultation.

The government said it would not comment on the case at this stage.

In July, announcing the end of the government's consultation, minister for Digital Infrastructure Matt Warman told the House of Commons: "We are satisfied that the proposed reforms are necessary to support the Government’s ambitions for the deployment of 5G and extending mobile coverage, particularly in rural areas, where mobile coverage tends to lag behind more urban areas.

"In taking forward these proposals, we will ensure that the appropriate environmental protections and other safeguards are in place to mitigate the impact of new mobile infrastructure."
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Source: Evening Standard, Tristan Kirk, 01 Oct 2020

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