By Ross Findon

CONCERNS over a proposed mobile phone base station at a 19th century church have been raised by residents.

The base station would be located in a flagpole that would replace an existing pole at St Michael and All Angels' Church, Ryde.

Plans for the mast were put forward by mainland company QS4, which invited comments from the public. The company is the church's approved installer of telecommunications on its property.

Fr Malcolm Jones said siting the mast on the church could provide essential income for the church.

"I have calculated it costs about £400 a week to keep the church going.

Every year the quota we pay to the Church of England for stipends and the upkeep of clergy houses goes up.

"All the money that would come from having the mast at the church would be used for the upkeep of this church," Fr Jones said.

"In my own mind and having looked at the issues, I am happy there is no more danger to health than many other things in our lives, such as microwaves and televisions.

"If I had any concerns, I would raise them."

However, nearby resident John Bettenson said he and others were concerned about a potential impact on health.

"I was approached by a number of concerned residents in my road and asked what could be done about the siting of such a mast, which is to be erected approximately 80 yards from Swanmore Middle School," said Mr Bettenson, of St Michael's Avenue.

He said he had contacted Island MP Andrew Turner and the area's IW council member, Cllr Charles Chapman, about the issue.

He said he was concerned about possible effects of radio and microwave electromagnetic radiation emitted from the base station.

However, QS4's church relationship manager, John Horsley, said all masts had to operate under strict international guidelines for emissions set by the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

The guidelines set by the commission were stricter than previous levels suggested by the UK's National Radiation Protection Board (NRPB) and many masts operated well below the ICNIRP levels, added Mr Horsley.

Omega read "Base Stations, operating within strict national and international Guidelines, do not present a Health Risk?" under:

Cllr Chapman said he was concerned people in the surrounding area were not told what was going on.

"I have sent a letter to residents advising them of the plans for a mast. I was concerned they did not know what was happening.

"A single pole mast is probably a relay mast and would probably cause no more problems than a television aerial but the government has not given us definitive guidance on the subject of telephone masts," said Cllr Chapman.

Picture in the Friday, July 21, County Press.

21 July 2006

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