Mobiles mast row looming

Jan 9 2007

By Tony Henderson, The Journal

Another row is looming over plans for a mobile phone mast near a Metro station.

Last week North Tyneside councillors turned down a bid by T-Mobile for a mast near the entrance to Cullercoats Metro station after local people formed an action group and 162 letters of objection and a 315-signature petition were lodged.

Now T-Mobile is behind another application for a 10-metre mast near the Grade II-star listed Tynemouth station, built in 1882, which is in a conservation area and is considered to be a fine surviving example of Victorian railway architecture. Metro operator Nexus has said that it intends to continue identifying plots of land on the system which can be leased for masts.

But Martin Donkin, spokesman for the Cullercoats group, predicted that Nexus will face plot by plot opposition.

He said: "If Nexus persists with this it will be a huge mistake. They will face determined opposition right along the line and across the whole system. This is a thorough disregard for people's welfare while the jury is out on the health issues concerning these masts.

"Metro stations are by their nature sited in densely populated areas. We should look at what happens in other European countries where there are exclusion zones for masts and they are sited carefully away from people.

"The Cullercoats mast was turned down because it would have been unsightly and ugly. It was also in a populated area and what was the case in Cullercoats will be doubly so in Tynemouth. We ask why should people have to spend months of their time opposing these schemes?" The independent co-ed King's School is adjacent to the station and headmaster Phillip Cantwell said: "We have 900 pupils from four to 18 years and Tynemouth Priory Primary School and a nursery are also in close proximity.

"There is no conclusive research yet which shows that there is not a negative impact on children's learning and behaviour and we will be objecting on behalf of the children in the school."

Ylana First, secretary of the Friends of Tynemouth Station, said: "I am against this when we don't know what the health effects of phone masts will be and it could also affect the appearance of a listed building."

Tynemouth Village Association secretary Joyce Jewitt said: "We will be objecting. We do not want these masts in our village. The station is listed and we do not want its setting jeopardised.

"Until the full effects are known health-wise they should err on the side of caution."

Paul Aitken, property manager at Bedlington-based Station Developments, which owns the station, said: "We would be concerned at the impact on what is a listed building."

Nexus spokesman Huw Lewis said: "We are working with outside contractors who are experts in this field and we are satisfied there are no public health issues arising from this programme, either for our passengers or neighbours. Any proposed mast would have to achieve planning permission from the local authority in the normal way and fall within national and local planning guidelines."

A T-Mobile spokesman said: "To have an effective mobile phone network we need mobile phone masts. When they are sited close to a community some people do have strong views and we try to be sensitive to these. But we believe health concerns are covered by a World Health Organisation statement that says that research to date does not point to any health concerns regarding masts."

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