I would like to pass on our experience of T-mobile’s behaviour in Bardsey Leeds.
I am afraid this is a hastily written report but I would be able to provide more supporting information at a later date
In March 2002 T-mobile applied to Leeds City Council for prior approval to erect a 12.5 m mast in a field adjacent to Smithy lane in Bardsey.
This site is in the greenbelt and a Special Landscape Area, adjacent to the conservation area which includes the old part of the village and the village pond
The purpose of this mast was to correct a small gap in coverage along the A58(T) where only outdoor reception was available
The A 58 is ¼ mile away and the most of the village has excellent T-mobile reception from two existing masts.
Over 80 residents objected in writing on grounds of countryside issues, loss of visual amenity, spoiling the character of the countryside, concerns about the health effects of the masts emissions – and glaring lack of real need for a mast at this site.
In May Leeds City Council duly met and considered the application and it was refused. T-mobile were informed of this refusal and residents who had objected were informed in writing that the application had been refused
We felt a sensible decision had been made and felt pleased that the Council had properly considered our concerns.
On the 2nd December 2002 a large lorry with a mast appeared at the village pond and with a long tubular structure and got stuck. It then became apparent that the mast base had already been built some time before
We contacted Leeds City Council who confirmed that T-mobile intended to erect the mast even though the application had been refused.
We were assured that it had been properly refused however on contacting T-mobile the villagers were told “We intend to develop this site”
At this stage we did not understand the legislation and so embarked on 3 weeks of direct action – blocking access, persuading reasonable contractors to desist until the planning approval was given and so on
Leeds City Council issued enforcement orders against the base and entered into negotiations with T- mobile this included suggesting alternative sites much closer to the road and with which the coverage would match the area of low coverage that T mobile had initially identified, (compared with the much wider coverage of the Smithy lane mast which would be increasing emissions in the village by a factor of 100 for no benefit to residents, as coverage is excellent already.)
Residents gave up Christmas preparations and effectively prevented work continuing but on the first Monday after the holidays the mast was erected.
Leeds City Council issued a second enforcement order against the mast but work on the electricity supply continued.
T-mobile then appealed against the enforcement orders on the grounds of their already having approval and – that approval should have been given
Over 70 villagers wrote to the Inspectorate to object to their appeal and a Public Inquiry was ordered.
Residents organised themselves into a Rule 6 party, received bundles of paperwork and presented their case at the public inquiry - after months of hard work and research.
The inspector upheld T-mobile’s appeal on the grounds that the refusal had been received outside the 56 day determination period and that the planning issues and concerns of residents “did not fall to be considered”
We have taken legal advice and decided to challenge both the decision and the legislation but this is expensive and risky.
In summary the guidelines of best practice were not adhered to, nor did T-mobile appear to even feel the need to appear approachable or concerned about residents’ opinions.
The 56 day loophole in the legislation relating to the prior approval procedure was used to erect the Smithy Lane Mast, when T-mobile were well aware that the planning decision had been a refusal.
In our opinion if the operators have such scant regard for residents concerns and do not even pay lip service to their own guidelines then the industry should be regulated by legislation and not guidelines.
In addition the loopholes in the legislation are allowing hundreds of masts to be erected after planning refusals and so disenfranchising the planners and residents from the planning process.
We have been forced to challenge the inspector’s decision through application for leave for judicial review as there is no way in the normal procedures that we can have the planning considerations of the site considered once that approval has been given by the council refusing the application too late .
We have been shocked by the undemocratic nature of the legislation relating to masts and the clear advantage given to the operators.
In our opinion all mobile phone masts should require full planning permission and residents concerns about the health issues should be properly considered.
At the moment the inspectors are not considering health concerns it appears that there is a Party line, which suggests that as the government’s conclusion is that the balance of evidence suggests that adverse health effects have not been proven then these concerns are “anxieties”. This is not the case most of us who have concerns have researched the data and made professional judgements about the likely risks.
The government clearly has financial interests in not acknowledging the likely health effects and the inspector’s failure to accept this or listen properly to research presented is another example of the undemocratic and inherently unfair nature of the present system.