Phone mast dirty tactics victory

DAN GRIMMER, NAOMI CANTON

28 October 2006 09:30

A mobile phone firm has exploited a legal loophole so a mast will be put up near homes - even though city council planning officers had turned down the application.

Families in Newmarket Road who won their fight to stop O2 from installing a 12.5m mast outside their homes were today dealt a hammer blow when it turned out the mast will be put up after all.

The problem arose because Norwich City Council officers only telephoned the mobile phone firm to tell them that they would need prior approval from the city council to install the mast.

But O2 has seized on a legal ruling over a mast in Carmarthenshire, where it was established that telephoning the firm to tell them that was not good enough - councils have to write to them.

Even though the council's planning committee decided in March to throw out the mast because of its situation and appearance, the firm is claiming consent by default because of the judgement since then.

The city council has tried to negotiate an alternative location but that has not been successful - and now the council is powerless to prevent the mast from being put up.

Leader of the city council Steve Morphew said:“I am angry that the will of the council and the residents has been thwarted,” he said. “We were following the rules as they were set down. I am appalled at the cynicism of the mobile phone company and I will be writing to them.”

Stuart Orrin, head of planning at the city council has written to families affected by O2s dirty tactics apologising for what has happened and explaining measures had been put in place to stop the loophole being exploited again.

Jane Malynn's house sale fell through earlier this year because of the mast proposals directly outside her house. She finally managed to sell after it was on the market 18 months to a different buyer.

Chris Hull, Green county councillor for Town Close ward, who headed the campaign against the mast, said: “My reaction is this rather reveals the problems we are having generally with the planning regulations in this country where a council can make a decision and it is then overthrown by a quirk and by cunning legal advice. It's just very wrong and I feel for the residents. It's similar to Tesco in that they are known for using every legal trick in the book and ignoring a democratic process.”

Are you battling a mobile phone mast where you live? Telephone Evening News reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772439 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

Copyright © 2006 Archant Regional. All rights reserved.

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