New tactics in mast fight after lie-down protest

12 July 2006

CAMPAIGNERS aim to use the falling value of their houses as part of their protest against mobile phone masts.

Members of the Orpington Residents Against Masts (ORAM) are urging residents living around the BT exchange in Goodmead Road to get the value of their houses reassessed by the council.

They believe blight caused by existing and planned antennae on the building will mean they will pay less council tax and force Bromley planning bosses to take action against the mobile phone giants.

ORAM member Sue Green said: "The only thing that matters in this exercise is money. If enough residents are affected by this thing and the value of their properties is affected - and they are successful in having their property rebanded- maybe that will stop it happening.

"It may be a small victory but it could spread, and if enough residents are prepared to make the phone call then I am sure it will start to hit the local authority.

"It could work, or we could fall flat, but we don't have a lot to fight with."

Campaigners staged a lie-down protest at the exchange last Saturday, trapping cranes that had arrived to erect three Vodafone and National Grid Wireless LTD antennae.

ORAM members claim the development is illegal and have slammed council bosses' lack of action. Supporter Brian George said: "We are furious at the incompetence of Bromley council's planning department and the inactivity of Bromley's legal department on this issue.

"We are also furious with Vodaphone and National Grid Wireless LTD for going ahead with this illegal development when fully aware that local residents are opposed to it.

"The council takes decisions on behalf of the local community and we feel that it has let local residents down."

The protestors claim council planning members decided any verdict on new masts at the site would be deferred until they had sought legal advice.

This was due to the residents' objections to the existing O2 masts on the roof of the exchange.

Mr George added: "We are law-abiding citizens and pay our council tax but we felt driven to taking action.

"ORAM would never condone anyone acting unlawfully but can empathise and understand why residents elsewhere have resorted to taking matters into their own hands and have tried to remove these masts themselves!"

Fellow protestor Angela Shields said: "Do our planning laws mean nothing? We need to find out what planning [bosses] intend to do about this. They'd come down on us normal people if we decided to build an extension after permission was turned down. It's all absolutely disgraceful."

A spokesman for Bromley council said members would chase the legal advice and double-check the masts that are going up. If there was a problem, the council would take "appropriate" action.

A spokesman for National Grid Wireless said it believed Vodafone putting equipment on existing poles on the exchange roof was permitted development and this view was made clear at the January meeting.

Since then there has been no further contact from Bromley council and so the building was going ahead. Vodafone searched extensively for alternative sites in the area but found none.

margaret.davis@archant.co.uk

Copyright © 2006 Archant Regional. All rights reserved.

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