Protest over phone mast

By Nicola Fenn

John Dornan, councillor for Laindon Park, MP John Baron and resident and campaign leader Jeffrey Goodwin

A row has erupted between Basildon Council and phone giant O2 over the position of a 15-metre-high phone mast in Laindon.

Fierce objections were made by residents, councillors and local schools, when plans for the telecommunications mast at the roundabout at West Mayne and Durham Road, arrived at Basildon Council's planning office.

The council objected to the site, but offered an alternative, at Mayne House in Fenton Way, which they claim O2 accepted.

However O2 insist they never received any suggestions and as 56 days has expired from when the application went in, the company is perfectly within its rights to start work.

Workmen began installing an equipment cabinet and cable lines last week, much to the dismay of local residents.

Maxwell Atkins, of Roosevelt Road, said: "I think it's absolutely disgusting these people can put these things where they want, without any reference to anybody.

"Democracy is thrown out of the window and it doesn't much matter what the residents say or that any council objections count."

Planning enforcement officers at Basildon Council are now investigating the reports.

John Dornan, councillor for Laindon Park, said his phone has been ringing "off the wall" with residents complaining about the work.

He said: "They can't ride roughshod over the people of Laindon and we will stand and fight them."

Jim Stevenson, spokesman for O2 explained how after 56 days, if the local planning authority has not approved or rejected the plans, they can automatically start work.

He said: "The council did write and said they would rather we didn't put it there and we waited for something else to come back from them and it never did.

"Of course we would come back straight away if another site was suggested - we would rather have a local planning authority talk to us.

"Now we've started the work, it's difficult to break it off so we will continue, but we would be willing to move it."

MP John Baron was horrified to hear of O2's behaviour.

He is already involved in the issue after it was revealed 3G technology will mean four times as many masts are required, to support the new service.

He said: "The whole planning issue around phone masts needs to be shaken up.

"We all want to be able to use mobile phones, but this mustn't mean masts are constructed without any regard to the wellbeing of local people.

"It is time for the Government to stop ignoring the views of communities and change the planning laws in favour of residents."

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