Mast campaigners set for pay-out

CAMPAIGNERS who protested against a mobile phone mast could gain compensation after a report slammed the council.

The findings into the O2 mast in Arnison Avenue said Wycombe District Council (WDC) failed to meet a deadline for its planning application and did not inform residents about what was happening.

People living near the mast, who complained could now be in line for compensation after the report recommended they should be given £550 each.

The O2 telecommunications pole was put up in Arnison Avenue in February 2006 after the mobile phone company used a legal loophole to install the mast when the district council failed to respond within the 56 day deadline.

The mast remained in place for six months before being taken down.

In a report by local government ombudsman Tony Redmond, published last Friday, findings showed that WDC not only failed to meet the deadline for a decision on the mast but also did not tell residents what had happened once it was built.

This led to a number of criticisms to the ombudsman, who investigates complaints of injustice arising from inefficient administration by local authorities.

Complainants who lived near the mast said that they had been left stressed by its installation, the uncertainty over whether it would remain as well as time and trouble in pursuing the matter with WDC.

In the report Mr Redmond said: "It seems to me that the council was at fault because it delayed unreasonably in informing residents what had happened. It was aware on June 23, 2005, that the applicant had deemed consent to erect the mast lawfully at any time.

"It was also aware that a number of residents had objected to the initial application and that the Planning Inspectorate had agreed with its decision to refuse it."

However, Mr Redmond acknowledged that the council had been trying to negotiate with the applicant about the mast. He added: "I welcome the council's proactive attempts to do this. However, it is my view that the council should have notified residents of the situation as soon as it was sure that the applicant had deemed consent as they claimed."

WDC spokesman Catherine Spalton said: "WDC accepts the decision made by the ombudsman and would like to apologise to the residents affected for any distress caused. The council has since carried out a comprehensive review of its systems to ensure that any similar application is dealt with in a timely and accurate manner.

"The telecoms mast has now been removed by the operator."

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