'Loophole' mast may be relocated

BBCi 29 March 06

A controversial mobile phone mast that was put up despite a council claiming it had rejected it could be moved.

The mast went up in Fisherman's Walk, Bournemouth, Dorset, after the borough council failed to tell Vodafone clearly enough that it refused it permission.

But now Vodafone chiefs have told campaigners that they would consider moving it to a different site.

The news comes after a BBC probe revealed council blunders allowed scores of unwanted masts to be put up.

Response 'breakthrough'

The failure by Bournemouth Borough Council to state clearly enough in a letter that it was rejecting the mast allowed Vodafone to claim it had not been told of any refusal in the given 56-day period laid down by law.

Scores of Southbourne residents have protested over the mast, which was erected on 13 February.

In a letter to campaigner Charmaine Despres, Vodafone's planning specialist Clive Snelling has now said they would consider moving the mast.

But he warned that already 16 alternative sites have been discounted from a "technical, property or planning and environmental perspective".

"In the event that a suitable alternative location, including council owned land, is identified, Vodafone would consider relocation as long as the site is technically sound, commercially feasible and is likely to receive the necessary planning permissions," he added.

Mrs Despres described the comments as a "breakthrough" and said she was confident an alternative site would be found.

On Tuesday, the BBC news website revealed that on 68 occasions across southern England councils had failed to get back to mobile phone operators within the time limit - allowing scores of masts planning permission by default.

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