Death knell for phone mast?

PETER WALSH
27 May 2006 10:33

Plans for new homes may finally signal the death knell for a controversial phone mast.

Families living near the 15 metre-high Vodafone mast in Fakenham Road, Taverham, have tried for years to have it removed.

Now, Broadland District Council, whose decision to refuse consent for the mast in 2003 was thwarted after a successful appeal by the telecoms company, has approved proposals for new flats on the site.

London-based Equity Holdings and Investments has obtained permission to remove a petrol station, replacement mast and another mast on the land in 321 Fakenham Road.

Work is expected to start later in the year to clear the site to make way for a development of 19 flats.

If everything goes to plan, that would end campaigners' anxiety about living so close to the mast.

“It's been a long road,” said Graham Barker, 67, of Lloyd Road. “After all the campaigning that went on for a long, long time, we just thought: 'Where else could we go without taking High Court action?' We were banging our heads against a brick wall. We were in a corner, but this came as a total and utter surprise - a very welcome one.”

But he said the champagne would stay on ice until after building work began.

“We will not celebrate, so to speak, until such time as we see the masts taken down, which I understand is supposed to be later this year,” he said.

The Evening News, through our Put Masts on Hold campaign, has fought against mobile phone masts being installed near homes and schools until it is proved they are safe.

Vodafone said it did not know anything about the proposal for homes on the site.

A spokesman said: “We haven't been requested to relocate, and we will just have to see what develops.”

Last February, we reported how campaigners sent a letter to the Ombudsman, an independent watchdog, about the mast.

It came after a planning inspector upheld an appeal from the phone giant against Broadland council's decision in December, 2003 to refuse permission for a replacement mast.

But the Ombudsman, who can consider complaints alleging administrative fault on the part of Government departments, ruled there was no basis for further intervention.

The original mast was installed in the mid-1990s amid controversy. Its height meant planning consent was not needed at the time, although the district council was required to give prior approval.

The council approved it despite opposition from Taverham Parish Council.

Copyright © 2006 Archant Regional. All rights reserved.

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