Phone masts earn council £275,000

By Rob Devey

PHONE MAST: Stapleton Avenue, Bolton

RENT from mobile phone masts erected on land and buildings owned by Bolton Council have boosted the Town Hall's bank account by £275,000.

Five of the town's 142 antennae are on local authority property, including a primary school and a leisure centre.

The figures, revealed following a request by The Bolton News, have sparked criticism that the council is putting financial gain ahead the health of the borough's residents.

Cllr Andy Morgan, who last year called for a blanket ban on masts on local authority land, said: "In the scheme of things, £275,000 is not a lot and certainly isn't an amount worth taking a risk for when there is no conclusive proof that masts are not a threat to health.

"I don't think any sum of money could justify taking that risk, especially where children are concerned. In the long run we just don't know what the effects will be on people who come near these things."

The five masts in the borough - at Brandwood Primary School, Daubhill; Horwich Leisure Centre; the Rainford House flats in Haydock Street on the School Hill Estate, Bolton; garages at Duddon Avenue in Breightmet and green belt land at Stapleton Avenue, in Heaton - have generated a total of £275,154 in revenue.

The council has pocketed £238,732 of that amount, with £36,421 in rent paid for a mast at Brandwood Primary School going direct to the school.

The rest of the money has gone into a central revenue pot and has not been earmarked for specific areas, like health or education Mike Chapman, who was headmaster at Brandwood Primary School when the mast was built, in April 1998, said he had taken expert advice at the time and came to the conclusion the mast would not be dangerous.

PHONE MAST: Rainford House, School Hill

The mast at Horwich Leisure Centre was installed in December 1998 and has generated £35,117 in income for Bolton Council.

Since being installed in October 1992, the mast on Rainford House has earned the council £81,624, while the mast in Duddon Avenue has brought in £59,449 and the mast at Stapleton Avenue has recouped £62,542 in rent.

Cllr Morgan said: "When people go to schools and leisure centres they might not be aware of the masts and do not have any choice but to go near them.

"I think as a good local authority and employer we should put the safety of our residents and staff first."

In many cases, residents have launched protests over the erection of mobile phone masts on public land.

Michelle Daubney organised a protest petition after councillors allowed Vodafone to install four, 20-metre high mobile phone antennae at St John the Evangelist Church, in Church Street, Farnworth.

More than 200 parents of pupils signed the petition.

Miss Daubney, of Hesketh Walk, Farnworth, whose five-year-old son, Jack, attends the school, said: "You cannot put a price on a child's health.

"There is no conclusive evidence that these masts are safe so the council shouldn't be taking risks to line their pockets.

"It is irresponsible and if we find out they are unsafe in ten years time it will be too late."

Despite public fears over the risk of radiation from mobile phone masts, scientific evidence suggests that they pose no serious danger to health.

A Bolton Council spokesman said: "All the phone masts in Bolton comply with strict Government guidelines. Various studies have been conducted into the possible health issues that may arise, but the information to date suggests that there is no cause for any concern over public health.

The council's position is backed up by Dr John Stather, of the radiation protection division at the Health Protection Agency, who said there is no cause for concern.

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