Parents furious over school phone mast

PARENTS of children at Lyminster Infant School have threatened to remove their children from the school permanently if a controversial 50ft tall mobile phone mast is put up nearby.

The O2 "monopole" mast, with three shrouded antennae, had already been turned down by Arun councillors and by the Planning Inspectorate on appeal, but the mobile phone company took their case to the High Court where the decision was overturned.

The High Court ruled that the law had not been correctly applied by the Planning Inspectorate in its objection to the plans and that the inspectorate must now reconsider the plan and apply the law correctly.

It is unclear at this stage what point of law was mis-interpreted.

If the mast gets the go-ahead, it will be sited north-west of the A259 roundabout, opposite the school, which is on the corner of Wick Street and Worthing Road in Littlehampton.

When the Planning Inspectorate first considered the case in March last year, its inspector David Harmston said that although the mast would be more than 100m away from the school, it was still "near" Government planning guidelines.

He also said that the fact that O2 had not consulted the school over the plans was significant and that the presence of the mast close to the school would be likely to generate "genuine and significant fears and apprehension, however unjustified".

Mr Harmston also said he was not satisfied that an alternative, suitable location for the mast could not be found elsewhere in the area.

On Tuesday, the school's headteacher Jane Taylor was not willing to comment on the issue but did say that it was the parents' right to remove their children from the school if they wished to do so.

Parents of four children at the school have contacted the Gazette to say that if the mast goes up, their children would be moved to different schools in the area.

Some had already put their child's name down on application lists for other schools in the area.

Mark Grout, who has one child at the school and one due to start in September, said: "I've got a mobile phone, everybody I know has got one and there's no problem with reception round here.

"No research has been done on the safety of these masts particularly with young children. I don't know if it's safe.

Thankfully my eldest child will leave anyway this year but my youngest, who's due to start in September will go somewhere else.

"It seems that if you are a big company like O2 with lots of money you can keep on appealing and buy your way through the planning process."

Another parent who also wished to remain anonymous, said: "I'm disgusted that officials seem to feel that they can treat our children like guinea pigs regarding the health issues surrounding these masts.

"I will be removing my daughter from the school should the mast go up."

Many more parents said they objected to the mast being erected so close to the school and had concerns over the possible health implications for their children.

Lesley Coulson of Holly Drive, Wick, Littlehampton, whose five-year-old daughter goes to the school,said: "My concerns are for the health of the children. We don't know what sort of radiation these masts give out and as far as I know there's no proof to say they are safe.

"The children at the school are only young and still developing. They start there when they are four and their skulls are not as hard as an adult's."

At the time of going to print, O2 and the Planning Inspectorate were unavailable for comment.

27 April 2006

All rights reserved © 2006 Johnston Press Digital Publishing.

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