Protests planned over church mast bid

By Peter Dewhurst

St Bede The Venerable Church, which is the proposed site of the mobile telephone mast

FEARS over plans to install a mobile phone mast on a Pendle church have led to a campaign to oppose it – including possible protests at services on Sunday.

The proposal is to add the mast – disguised as a flagpole – to St Bede's Church in Railway Street, a residential area of Nelson. Initial permission will be needed from a consistory court, which deals with planning issues within Anglican churches.

Chairman of Pendle Council's Nelson Committee Coun. David Foster has called on residents to turn up at the church on Sunday to object.

A campaign was mounted in February, 2006, after letters were sent to residents. The response to applicants QS4 was that householders did not want a phone mast in or on the church, says ward councillor Gary Bird.

He added: "I am appalled at the way these people have treated our Clover Hill community on this issue – firstly attempting to gain the residents' confidence in 2006 by claiming no development would proceed without their opinions being taken into account, then seemingly disregarding these opinions by proposing a further development in 2007 without any resident consultation whatsoever."

Coun. Foster added: "I am disgusted with the Church of England after residents of Clover Hill objected to these proposals for a mast on St Bede's, highlighting the health hazards.

"The health of the residents must be paramount before coppers into the church funds.

"By urging all residents to attend the church services of St Paul's and St Bede's this Sunday to voice their disapproval we will make it clear that we, the residents of Clover Hill, are against the proposals for the new 3G telephone systems, so telling QS4 that they are not wanted here in Clover Hill."

Coun. Bird urges all residents and churchgoers to make their objections to the scheme in writing, by Friday, June 15th, to: The Diocesan Registrar, Diocesan Offices, Cathedral Close, Blackburn, BB1 5AA.

The Vicar said: "I would encourage anyone to write to the Registrar with their opinions. I feel it is important everyone's views are considered.

"I would encourage people to make their views known but would ask them not to disrupt the worship."

Anne McMillan of QS4 said: "We have complied with the local planning authority regulations by submitting a licence notification, which has since timed-out with no comment from the local authority. Running in parallel with this is the petition for faculty, which is with the registrar of the Diocese of Blackburn awaiting completion of the citation period as per the laws of the Church of England.

"This 28-day period finishes on Thursday, June 14th, and thereafter the papers, including the public notice, will be forwarded to the Chancellor of the Diocese of Blackburn for his consideration. The public notice is currently on display at the church. The form contains details as to how the public can comment on the proposal directly to the registrar.

"We have followed all the ecclesiastical and secular guidelines in respect of the proposal, and would willingly meet with Couns Bird and Foster at a mutually-convenient time should they wish to do so."

Nelson police chief Insp. Russ Procter said: "We would encourage any persons wishing to protest to seriously consider the congregation in the church and their right to worship in private.

"They should also consider that there are possible public order offences involved in protesting within a church or its grounds. We would ask them to consider carefully their actions."

l Protesters at the church need to be careful, of course. Under the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860, people "guilty of riotous, violent or indecent behaviour" in any cathedral, church or chapel, or even in the grounds, can be fined or even jailed.

All rights reserved ©2007 Johnston Press Digital Publishing


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