Demos delay masts

By Matt Wilkinson

Jem Duckmanton, eight, leads the protest at the Chester Arms

People power has brought a halt to plans to build mobile phone masts on two pubs in Oxford.

Residents living near the Marlborough House in Grandpont and The Chester Arms in Chester Street, East Oxford, have been protesting against mast plans by mobile phone company T-Mobile.

Now the firm has put installation on hold after hundreds turned out at public meetings to oppose masts being planted on the pubs.

On Wednesday, more than 50 residents living near The Chester Arms took to the streets in a bid to get the plans rejected. continued...

Protester John Lo Breglio said: "Our protests have been the main cause as they don't want the bad publicity.

"This mast would have gone up two weeks ago if we hadn't found out about it by chance.

"This would have been a done deal and we'd be looking at a phone mast out the window now.

"But T-Mobile has only put the masts on hold and it's still the same situation until the plan is scrapped."

T-Mobile did a deal with pub owners Punch Taverns which allows them to install masts on some of its 90 pubs nationwide.

Although an estimated 80 pubs across the country will house the masts, T-Mobile has agreed to review the plans for two in Oxford.

Around 100 residents met T-Mobile executives last week to oppose the Chester Arms proposal and neighbours com- plained about similar plans at the Marlborough House last month.

Protesters armed with placards met outside the Chester Arms yesterday to keep the heat on the phone firm only hours after it decided to suspend plans.

Gordon Simmons, of T-Mobile, said: "T-Mobile has decided to place the proposals to site mobile phone base stations at the Marlborough House and Chester Arms public houses on hold while we consider other options."

The company would not comment on what other sites it was looking at or whether its plans had been scrapped or just postponed.

Nick Trueman, of Punch Taverns, said: "We've got no plans at the moment for masts on other Punch Taverns in the area."

Chester Arms landlord John Dunkley fears customers will boycott the pub if the 3G mast gets the go-ahead.

The firm has permitted development rights at the pubs and does not need planning permission.

The Marlborough House mast is also opposed by parents and governors of nearby St Ebbe's Primary School in Whitehouse Road. The rear entrance to the school grounds is opposite the pub.

9:12am today

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