Early warning call on masts

By Maddy Biddulph

Vodafone, T-Mobile and other operators should be forced to notify residents in advance about where and when masts could be built in their area, Oxford city councillors have decided.

They unanimously passed a motion that telecommunications companies should warn people about their plans - regardless of whether planning permission or prior consultation is needed.

This would stop mobile phone firms putting up transmitter masts without consultation or planning permission, under permitted development rights. continued...

City councill Labour group leader Bob Price called on the Government to bring national regulations in England and Wales in line with Scotland and Northern Ireland, where all mobile phone mast applications have to go through the full planning process.

Mr Price, who proposed the motion, said: "It's a wake-up call to the Government to realise the depth of concern about mobile phone masts.

"It needs to take stronger measures to guarantee public consultation." 'It is a wake-up call to the Government to realise the depth of concern about mobile phone masts, and it needs to take stronger measures to guarantee public consultation' Councillor Bob Price

The council's stance does not alter the legal situation, but is designed to put pressure on ministers.

It comes after protests earlier this month brought a halt to proposals to build masts at the Marlborough House pub, in Grandpont, and the Chester Arms, off Iffley Road.

T-Mobile agreed to review its plans and put installation on hold after hundreds of objectors turned out at public meetings.

The firm did not need planning permission to carry out the work, as it had permitted development rights for both sites.

Tim Treacher, of Western Road, in South Oxford, who campaigned to stop the phone masts being built at the pubs, welcomed the councillors' vote.

He said: "What happened with the Marlborough House and Chester Arms is a good indication where, because the firm did such a cursory survey before they started actual work, they were not aware the sites were near schools, nor of the strength of feeling in the area."

Edward Newell, another anti-mast campaigner, said: "The Government should never have allowed the mobile phone companies to put these things up exactly where they wanted them in the first place."

A spokesman for the Mobile Operators' Association - which represents UK mobile phone operators on planning issues - said removing permitted development rights would do nothing to address the concerns some people had about masts.

She said: "Operators follow the guidance in the Code of Best Practice and the Ten Commitments, which identifies on a case-by-case basis what consultation should be carried out, in addition to that required by statute.

"It would not be appropriate to address any perceived weaknesses in the current permitted development/prior approval rules through their abolition.

"They should be addressed by improving the efficiency with which local planning authorities consult locally over prior approval proposals and process objections from local residents."

8:55am today

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