Residents mobilise against mobiles

Traffic on the Cavehill Road was brought to a standstill during a protest by angry families against the proposed building of a mobile phone mast at the junction of the North Circular Road.

Over 100 people held the demonstration after test holes were seen being drilled on the roadside, indicating that the mobile phone company ‘3’ were renewing interest in the site.

Four years ago local people got together and formed the Cavehill Residents Action Group (CRAG) to object to a planning application from the telecommunications company ‘3’ (then known as 3G) for a 15-foot mast and cabinet. The residents maintained there was no evidence that the equipment was safe, a claim disputed by the phone company. CRAG then sought a high court injunction after the planning application was approved but this move also failed.

Despite getting the go ahead however, no more work was carried out by the phone company.

But the Planning Service have now confirmed that inquiries have been made by an agent for ‘3’ to establish if the company now needs any further planning permission to erect a mast. Briege O’Hare of CRAG this week said residents are as determined as ever to prevent any future mast being built.

“Based on government reports there is still not enough evidence to show that mobile phone masts are safe and until we have a better idea of the long term risks associated with these things – especially on children – we will be fighting to prevent them being built in areas like this. This campaign will be a success because we will not stop no matter what happens. CRAG is willing to help other groups who are fighting against these masts.”

She said more care should be put into the decisions as to where masts are built.

“People do need mobile phones but they also need to know they are safe. We want exclusions zones set up like down south and in Scotland where masts are not allowed to be built until they can prove they are safe.”

Backing the residents in their campaign and taking part in the protest was Sinn Féin councillor Tierna Cunningham, who said the people of the Cavehill Road had her party’s full support in their fight.

“I pledge my support and the support of Sinn Féin to this campaign because we oppose the building of these masts in residential areas. Health is at the forefront of this campaign and we are totally opposed to the building of this mast beside schools and shops.

“I will be lobbying the Council for the setting up of exclusion zones. There are already four masts in this area and we do not need or want any more. This is only the start of the campaign but we are determined to make sure it will be successful,” she said.

A spokesman for the Planning Service confirmed that permission had been granted for a mast on the site under the now defunct ‘prior approval’ scheme. But he said officials were currently investigating whether a new planning application was required because the agent dealing for ‘3’ requested moving the mast by 60 cm to avoid pipes that have recently been laid. “The planning service has recently received correspondence from the agent advising that the mast needs to be moved by approx 60cms and seeking clarification whether or not a planning application is required. The matter is currently under consideration.”

No one from the phone company was available for comment.

Journalist: Evan Short


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