Council blame for mast error

By Jonathan Bunn

RESIDENTS could be in line for a compensation payout after a council blunder led to a phone mast being erected close to their homes.

Despite initial denials, the council has admitted it missed a deadline to refuse mobile phone giant O2 permission to put up the mast in Markhouse Road, Walthamstow.

Epping Forest Council recently paid a total of £2,500 to ten residents in Waltham Abbey when it made the same mistake, but larger amounts have been awarded elsewhere.

In 2003 the Local Government Ombudsman ordered Swindon Council to pay seven families between £10,000 and £20,000 to compensate them for the decrease in value of their homes when an administration error meant a mast was installed nearby.

O2 was within its rights to erect the 15 foot mast in Markhouse Road and insist it will not be taken down.

A letter from the council apologising to residents has been delayed, suggesting the council is treading carefully with the possibility of legal action and a costly payout looming.

Residents were shocked when the mast appeared overnight just before Christmas and initially planned to seek an injunction preventing it being switched on. The plan was ditched, however, when it emerged there was no time to pursue the action.

Tony Alvaranga, 42, who can see the mast from his home in Samantha Close, said: "There was a commitment by the planning office to write to residents who had objected to the mast application - that commitment has not been met.

"I believe a first letter was withdrawn at the eleventh hour and another one was going to be sent, but until Monday we had not received it.

A council spokesman confirmed a letter of apology will be sent to residents and said the authority was currently assessing the implications of its mistake.

© Copyright 2001-2007 Newsquest Media Group


The 'Swindon' case is the leader (attached).

The potential for recompense via the court also exists although, to my knowledge, this has not yet been tested. The Bardsey case in the Court of Appeal (Feb 2005) refers. This concerned an application for prior approval and the LPA’s failure to notify any decision to the operator within the 56-day deadline - hence approval being deemed. In their findings, the three judges (one on whom had sat on the Harrogate case’) declared that the failure to notify was an effective an effective disenfranchisement of the claimant’s right to have her concerns on health and devaluation of her property taken into account and that, consequently, her Article 6.1 rights under the Human Rights Act to a fair hearing had been breached. As stated by Lord Justice Waller, "It seems to me clear that Dr Nunn's Article 6 rights were here infringed. She and others affected had the right to make representations to the LPA on the effects on health and on the appearance of the mast as it affected them and the value of their homes. In this instance she was deprived of her right under Article 6 to such a determination”. And Lord Justice Laws, "At paragraph 22 my Lord concludes that Dr Nunn was deprived of her right under ECHR Article 6 to a determination of her claims relating to health, the appearance of T-Mobile's mast and its effect on the value of her home and the homes of others. If I may say so I think that is entirely right.........”. Dr Nunn had the right to expect an effective decision by the LPA and thereafter the opportunity to present her objections in the event of an appeal. The incompetence of the LPA denied these rights.

It follows that if an LPA fails to take health fully into account (and, indeed, property devaluation) then it runs the risk of a claim in the County Court from every affected resident.

See further definition on the Planning Sanity website.


Compensation for phone mast blunder

Families living near a mobile phone mast have been awarded £117,000 in compensation.

Seven families will get between £10,000 and £20,000 depending on their proximity to the 20ft telecoms mast in Swindon.

Swindon Borough Council was ordered to pay the compensation after its planners failed to object to the One2One mast within the necessary 28 days due to an administration error.

The award is thought to the first of its kind.

Local Government Ombudsman Jerry White found the council guilty of maladministration causing injustice and has ordered the payment of compensation for the loss in value of the homes affected.

But most families said they would much rather the mast was removed.

This was our ideal home, but from our back garden and my daughter's bedroom all you can see is this mast

Melanie Hall, resident

Melanie Hall, one of six residents to bring the complaint against the council, said: "It should not have gone ahead in the first place, it's a residential area.

"This was our ideal home, but from our back garden and my daughter's bedroom all you can see is this mast.

"The compensation doesn't mean much to us really, ideally we wanted the mast to come down."

A spokeswoman said Swindon Borough Council had apologised to the families for the error - which was caused by the application being put on the wrong pile of paperwork.

This delay meant One2One - now named T-mobile - could put the mast up even though planners had objected.

Council chief executive Simon Birch said: "The council has accepted the ombudsman's findings in full and has offered affected householders compensation.

"The council has introduced new procedures for dealing with future applications for telecommunications development to prevent this maladministration happening again."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2003/05/19 16:22:57 GMT


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