Planners rejected bid for essential communication mast

Camden New Journal - by PAUL KEILTHY
Published: 22 March 2007

Cops silenced in Town Hall phone bungle

Planners rejected bid for essential communication mast

A RADIO ‘dead zone’ which prevents the £1.5 billion new police radios working in part of Hampstead is down to the refusal of Camden planners to authorise a new mast, police communications experts said last night (Wednesday).

Summoned to the Town Hall to explain why officers were reporting problems with the new Airwave radio system in buildings and on certain streets, Met radios expert Ch Supt Peter Goulding told councillors: “There are a very few streets at the top end of Hampstead where the coverage is slightly less than we would want it to be.

“This is… because of the shape of the hills in that particular area.”

To get full coverage, he said, it was necessary to install a telecommunications mast, alongside other ‘street furniture’ and phone masts. The application for planning permission had been denied last year, he added.

The Airwave digital radio system, which is expected to replace the ten-year-old analogue Metradio system by the end of next year, is run on a contract by phone giants O2 for the police nationally.

Designers hope that by operating more like a mobile phone than a walkie talkie it will allow police to communicate more effectively, especially in the Underground where radio problems were highlighted by reports into the response to the July 7 bombings.

O2 regional director David Robinson told the New Journal that the application to build a mast in West Heath Road, Hampstead, had been declined by the council’s development and control committee in December.

He said: “We have appealed it – and I would just impress on the local authority that we have that before them. There is a fall-back option on the roof of the Royal Free hospital, where there is already existing equipment.”
Because of a long-term roof replacement project at the hospital, it will not be possible to consider installing the mast until May.

Ch Supt Goulding told the New Journal that the streets which were not fully covered by the new system “could not be divulged for operational reasons”. He added that police vehicles had full reception across the borough and that the problem affected hand-held radios.

The discussion of the radio problem at the Housing and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee followed concerns raised by Camden police’s Supt Roger Smalley in February.

He told a community consultative group that officers trialling the new system: “Are finding that there is not complete coverage. This can cause some effectiveness reduction in reacting to incidents. There is also a health and safety consideration for officers.”

All content © New Journal Enterprises, 2006


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