Phone mast rent signals profits

By Kate Martin

MOBILE phone masts are netting Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council more than £10,000 a year.

In response to a Freedom of Information request submitted by The Gazette, the council revealed it collected £10,260 in rent during 2006 from mobile phone companies that have erected masts on sites across the borough.

But the council's legal experts refused to say how much money each individual site makes because the figures are "commercially sensitive" - despite Hampshire County Council agreeing to release similar information about its own rental income from phone masts.

Figures from the borough council show it made £3,664 a year from a single lease in 2002 to 2004, and this sum increased to £10,260 a year in 2005 and 2006 when four new leases began alongside the original agreement.

Three of the leases run for 10 years and two run for 15 years. This includes a lease on a site at Manydown. Although the farmland is jointly owned by the borough council and the county council, the rent is collected solely by the borough.

When The Gazette asked how much money the council makes from individual sites, the council refused to answer the question.

Joanna Williams, from the council's legal and democratic services, said: "Disclosure of all, or part, of this information would prejudice the council's commercial interests and potentially its lessee partners by association.

"It is in the public interest to protect the council's position as a commercial landowner and maintain its competitive character, thus helping to secure income and enabling the council to use such income for the benefit of the borough's residents and communities."

Hampshire County Council collects rent from just one site in Basingstoke and Deane, at Aldworth Science College in Basingstoke. The site currently generates a rental income of £8,750 a year.

Local mast campaigner Simon Preedy said he would prefer to see mobile phone operators pay local authorities a higher rent for the masts.

He told The Gazette: "Extra money could then be set aside for independent research into the non-thermal pulsed microwave emissions that many are concerned about - emissions that our Government doesn't take into account - as opposed to research funded and sponsored by the telecoms industry, which may be biased."

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