BBC accuses Bracknell of mast application blunders

Apr 5 2006

By Judith Clay

A WAR of words has erupted between the BBC and Bracknell Forest Borough Council after the Beeb named and shamed the worst local authorities for tackling where phone masts can be put up.

The report claimed that borough council blunders let six cases slip through the net - making it one of the top offenders in southern England.

Planning rules stipulate that if the mobile phone operator is not contacted within 56 days, permission is automatically granted regardless of any objection.

The masts pinpointed are in Buckhurst Moors and London Road in Binfield, near the Horse and Groom pub on Bagshot Road, behind Somerfield in Crowthorne High Street, Bracknell College and next to 224 College Road in Sandhurst.

But Bracknell Forest Borough Council fiercely defended itself. Steve Loudoun, assistant director of environment and leisure for the borough council, said: "The council has not made any errors.There were six sites between 1999 and 2002 where following an assessment by planners it was decided additional information was not required from the developer.

"Under the 'deemed consent' rules the operator was then able to put up the masts as already agreed by the council."

However, the BBC are sticking to their guns.

A BBC South spokes-woman said that legislation states that a council should contact the phone operator within the 56 days whether it approves or not.

She said: "BBC South states this clearly in the story and includes comment from Bracknell Forest Borough Council. As such the story is correct and will remain on the website."

Protesters are also not convinced. David Little, of the Martins Heron and The Warren Residents Association, believes the legal loophole leaves the policy open to exploitation.

He said: "Based on the current system it would seem perfectly possible for such events to occur. Surely it is the local residents' views that should dictate the course of events and guide the planning process accordingly."

Protest groups are also calling for policy reform. Sian Meredith, spokes-woman for Mast Sanity, said: "These blunders do occur and there is no excuse whatsoever. It's just outrageous and shocking.

"There are so many cases of this and it needs to be properly investigated. "

Are there too many phone masts? Do you know of a really bad example of allowing one to be installed? E-mail letters@bracknellnews.co.uk

© owned by or licensed to Trinity Mirror Plc 2006

//tinyurl.com/gmj4f

--------

Steve Loudoun, assistant director of environment and leisure at Bracknell
ought to resign forthwith. His assertion is not 'spin'; it is utterly
spurious and if he does not know this, then he is unfit for his appointment.

David Baron


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