A mast too far for planners

A bid to build a fourth phone mast close to a community centre has been angrily dismissed by councillors. Mobiles giant Hutchison 3G wants to put another street lamp style mono-pole on Spencer Road railway bridge despite fierce protests from fifteen neighbours

Two have already been erected on the south side of the West Coast Line crossing and another has been approved, but not yet erected on the north side of the structure.

And company agent John Tootill argued that a fourth mast would "balance" the aesthetics of the controversial structures – to the amazement of Wigan's planning and development committee this week.

The mast, which would allow video phone messaging and connection to the Internet for Whitley residents, would operate within internationally agreed radiation guidelines, and the mast would be partially screened by a woodland area behind, he insisted.

But the "minimalist" look of the equipment failed to convince Wigan Central Labour councillor Joe Shaw.

He said: "I would like to know just when did mobile phone masts become part of the street furniture as we know it?

"As far as I can see, they are an eyesore and a travesty for the environment and I think coming back and back with more masts in this one area is absolutely outrageous.

"If we allow this when is it going to stop? Presumably they will be back with three on one side of the bridge and then they will want to make things equal with three on the other!"

He was backed by Whitley Methodists' Rev David Clowes who appeared before councillors as the protesters' witness.

The minister said the church prided itself on youth work in the community – and six groups were based there in the shadow of the profusion of masts, from babes in arms to young teenagers.

Rev Clowes said: "Many people are very afraid of the effect of these masts in our area.

"We have no knowledge of the long-term effect that radiation from these masts has on the brains of children, and their general health.

"The dangers from asbestos or lead in petrol were not known until years later and if the council approve this mast I would like to know how this can be guarding the well being of our young people, which is one of their main roles."

Community Action Party's Coun Jim Ellis is now calling for planners to produce a map with each new application showing all masts within a quarter of a mile radius, to try and prevent such proliferations.

The planning committee unanimously threw out the mast plan.

14 September 2006

All rights reserved © 2006 Johnston Press Digital Publishing.

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