Secret mast report shows mistakes

by Malcolm Prior
BBC News, Bournemouth

Independent legal advisers have told a council embroiled in a row over unwanted mobile phone masts that it did make mistakes, the BBC can reveal.

Confidential barrister reports written for Bournemouth Borough Council have been leaked to the BBC News website.

They warn the council - which failed to meet a vital planning deadline - that action to have the masts removed could leave it facing compensation claims.

The council confirmed it had been given advice and was considering it.

I consider that the matter is clear and that the 56 days had expired Legal report

Campaigner Charmaine Despres met the news with anger, saying: "I reiterate what I have said before that Bournemouth borough planners are a law unto themselves.

"Our only hope is that Vodafone will consider relocating the mast to council land and in the future to hope that mast sharing will be made obligatory."

Earlier this week, a BBC Freedom of Information Act investigation revealed that such council blunders have allowed dozens of masts to be given planning permission across southern England.

If a phone operator wishing to put up a mast under 15m does not hear from a council within 56 days it can assume it has "deemed consent" - even if the council had wanted to refuse approval.

Advice considered

It has now come to light that a barrister with planning expertise was asked to look at two cases - both the focus of public anger - where Bournemouth Borough Council has been accused of not meeting that deadline.

The reports looked at the dispute surrounding an O2 mast at Queen's Park and a Vodafone mast in Fisherman's Avenue.

In a statement, the council confirmed it had obtained counsel's opinion but said: "The legal advice obtained is confidential but we can confirm that we are now considering this advice to establish what further action may be appropriate.

"In relation to the O2 phone mast we are of the opinion that we notified the operator within the specified time period.

"We have sought counsel's advice on this matter and are now looking into the advice to see what options there are."

Story from BBC NEWS: //news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/england/dorset/4861920.stm

Published: 2006/03/31 06:09:59 GMT

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