Power to the people

Wimbledon News 7.04.06

The future looks bright for a group of campaigners from Wimbledon Park, after controversial plans to install six Orange phone masts were thrown out.

The proposal to install the masts on Beaumont House in Arthur Road attracted a storm of objection, and a petition in protest drew more than 1,000 signatures and support from local politicians.

Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond said: "Residents do not want this mast it will be an eyesore and is too close to a highly residential area."

Campaigners objected on grounds of health, depreciation of property value and the negative impact on the local park.

They said Wimbledon Park already had 34 masts and raised concern that the masts would be dangerously close to a nursery, in a district whose high birth rate has earned it the nickname Nappy Valley.

Wendy Pemberton, a key player in the campaign, said she objected to a "legal loophole" that allowed mobile phone operators not to require planning permission for masts if they are under 15 metres in height.

Although the proposals for masts on Beaumont House have now been dropped, Orange has claimed this is not in response to the anti-mast campaign, but because site providers Golfrate Holdings have changed their development plans.

An Orange spokesman said: "The fact is masts are not an optional extra. If you own a mobile phone you must accept there is an infrastructure needed to support your use of mobile phone services. TV and radio transmitters are much more powerful by comparison and we have lived with thesefor over 50 years with no problems.

"The cost of rolling out the network is very high and, quite frankly, if the operators could actually deliver the level of service and coverage customers demand on the existing infrastructure they would."

She added Orange will now go back to the drawing board to identify new potential sites for the masts.

Miss Pemberton said: "Residents are extremely pleased that Golfrate Holdings have retracted their agreement with Orange to use Beaumont House, but the list of alternative sites has not been disclosed. It is crucial residents stay focused and monitor this situation. Pressure must be applied to the council to take a more proactive stance in blocking permitted development rights' which repeatedly allow masts to be sited in residential areas."

Councillor Tariq Ahmad, who campaigned against a previous proposal to install masts on the same site three years ago, said: "People often say you can't oppose mobile phone masts, but our concerted efforts show it can work."

dpilkington@london.newsquest.co.uk

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