Village anger over phone mast

Residents determined to stop it being connected to power

Julie Hemmings

VILLAGERS unhappy about a mobile telephone mast near their homes say they will do anything in their power to prevent it being switched on.
Phone company Orange installed a third-generation services mast on the edge of Sheriff Hutton after an administrative error by Ryedale Council.

The council was a day late in returning paperwork to the communications company which, under planning law, can assume it has consent to put up its mast.

The authority has been in negotiations since October trying to rectify the situation caused by its oversight, to try to agree an alternative location and any compensation payable to Orange for the change and disruption.
Residents assumed Orange would take no action in the meantime so were surprised when contractors appeared on Wednesday to dig a trench to connect it to the electricity supply.

The police were called to mediate as angry villagers went into a stand-off with the contractors, who eventually left without completing their work.
Villager Linda Murphy said it was only by chance that a resident saw the workmen and then rounded-up neighbours who were at home to make their protest.

"We're finding it very difficult to know what's going on," said Mrs Murphy.
"Orange had promised if anything was going to be done they would notify the parish council and Ryedale Council. We will do anything in our power to stop it being connected – we're quite prepared to park our cars to stop work being done. It's a very emotive issue."

Mrs Murphy who has two small children, said the potential health risks of a mast were the main concern to villagers, although they also were unhappy with the mast's appearance. It has been painted green but villagers say it is no less visible.

Ryedale's development control manager Gary Housden said the council had admitted the mistake but was frustrated with lack of progress in talks with Orange since.

In line with Government guidance, concerns over possible health risks from telecommunications masts are not grounds to reject a planning application and Mr Housden said local councils' powers over this type of structure were more restricted than people might think.

If masts are shorter than 45ft, as is the one Sheriff Hutton, the presumption is in favour of permission.

Mr Housden said the council did have concerns about the proposed location, as it is close to the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and talks were continuing to agree an alternative site.
Orange bosses met yesterday to discuss the mast.

Commenting on the protest on Wednesday, an Orange spokesman said: "After a meeting between residents, the local police, the local council and Orange's contractors it was agreed that Orange had legitimate rights to carry out the work but would not do the work that day, rather return at a later date to carry out the work.

"Orange is in negotiations with Ryedale District Council as to alternative locations for a mast and Orange will continue to work with the council to look at all suggested alternatives.

"It is also Orange's intention to carry on with its legitimate right to connect the existing mast at some point in the near future."

26 May 2006

All rights reserved © 2006 Johnston Press Digital Publishing.



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