Mobile mast bid refusal sparks appeal

By Chris Kearney

Mobile phone company Vodafone plans to appeal against a decision to block an application for a new mast in Oxford.

More than 1,200 people signed a petition organised by Marston resident Michael Haines against the proposal.

Vodafone wanted to put up a 33ft mast disguised as a telegraph pole in Jack Straw's Lane, near St Michael and All Angels Church.

But Oxford City Council turned down the scheme last week because of its design and location.

Vodafone spokesman Rob Matthews said the firm was disappointed as it believed a new mast would improve 3G coverage in the area.

He said: "We have reviewed our options for providing coverage to our customers in the area and have concluded the proposal in Jack Straw's Lane will have the least impact.

"Vodafone does not take the decision to appeal lightly, but we feel that this is the best option for providing optimum coverage for our customers."

Vodafone claimed it had written to residents, detailing the proposal and inviting comments, but had received no reaction.

The firm appealed against a decision to block plans for a mast in Jack Straw's Lane in 2005. It also lost the appeal.

Mr Haines said: "I managed to get 1,200 signatures from residents around Marston, and I think that the council should take notice of that.

"We feel that this mast is being forced on us and we don't want it - not to mention the possible health risks to those that live near it."

City council spokesman Louisa Dean said: "The officers made the decision to refuse permission due to the style of the mast. It would not have fitted in with the surrounding area.

"In addition we feel the applicant had given us insufficient evidence on the unsuitability of alternative sites."

Marston city councillor Mary Clarkson said: "The annoying thing about all this is that there is already existing planning permission in place for a mobile phone mast on top of St Michael's Church.

"It's not for Vodafone, but the company that applied for permission hasn't utilised it."

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