Objectors accuse Vodafone of fraud at mast inquiry

Woking News and Mail - Woking, England, UK

AN appeal over the siting of a mobile phone mast should not be happening
because the signal coverage is already good enough. This was the claim of
residents ...



This was mine. Full story follows!


Informal Hearing for Proposed Mast at Horsell Way, Horsell, Woking, Surrey - Mast Cabinet Mock-ups and Vodafone "Fraud"

On Tuesday morning, 8th January 2008, I attended an Informal Hearing for a mast in a nearby district of Woking. The LPA had rejected the 10m mast on a wide verge that acts as an informal village green on the basis of siting and appearance and lack of evidence to back up the alternative sites discounted. Unusually, the LPA rejected the application using delegated powers. However, there were 400 or so letters of objection to the pre-consultation and the subsequent application (made in the school holidays, as is usual by the Operators).

Luckily, the team despatched by Vodafone were the same guys who attended the previous Hearing (a year ago for a mast in our area) which we won. I had imagined that after their poor showing last time, that they would have been reassigned.They were as arrogant as before and immediately set about savaging the Planning Officer for criticising Vodafone's choice of alternative sites and lack of evidence to prove that they really had seriously considered those sites. The residents helped out by questioning the choice of alternative sites and the methods by which Vodafone had discounted them. The ward councillors also queried Vodafone's methods of choosing alternative sites and of contacting potential site owners - including the Council themselves for one site - which hadn't been declined.

One resident managed to move the discussion onto the need for the mast at all. At this point I read out my prepared piece on the lack of need for a new mast in a site that Vodafone said was already covered by full 3G and 1.4MBit 3G internet. I also accused the company of apparently committing fraud by appearing to offer a service which they are unable to supply. The 1.4MBit 3G connectivity had been described by the Vodafone network engineer present as 'patchy' and he had to apologise for the mistake in colouring the submitted simulated plots with the wrong colour key! Apparently 'Dense Urban' should be yellow not pink and basic 3G should have been pink not orange (or something).

Anyway, I said that Vodafone should either admit that their website is fraudulent by claiming connectivity that they can't offer and the Appeal should continue OR that Vodafone admit that they can offer full 3G connectivity already so should withdraw their Appeal!

When pinned down to give an answer by the Inspector, the Vodafone network engineer Barry Lennon said that the Vodafone coverage website was wrong, but that in reality they can support a few users but not too many, and really need to state this on their website but don't. [It sounded as close to an admission of fraud as you're ever likely to get from them].. The technical guys tried to bluff their way through, but lost much of their credibility by appearing to want to have their cake and eat it. It was enjoyable to see the b******s squirming uncomfortably. I am glad to say that from then on Vodafone were firmly on the back foot. A couple of residents present who were Vodafone customers said that their coverage was fine, that they didn't believe a word that Vodafone were saying and were likely to cancel their contracts if the mast went up.

We took a break during which I met the Chair of the Council Executive and her deputy as well as many residents and the ward Councillors. They were pleased that Vodafone was apparently struggling.

After the break the Siting and Appearance were discussed at length. Vodafone referred to a roadside verge along a through road, when in fact the site in question is a sizeable area of grass placed alongside a quiet cul-de-sac. I think this shows how much the Operators rely upon maps and computer simulations instead of site visits and common sense. One resident had produced mock-ups of the cabinets (available for loan to other groups upon request, I believe) and placed a fishing rod with balloon in place on site which were then photographed in situ from multiple residences and angles. This stroke of genius (never seen before by Vodafone I should add) had the desired effect and indeed later on allowed the Planning Inspector, Mr. Roberts, to have a quicker site visit by simply being able to validate the accuracy of the views submitted. The ward Councillors and several residents corrected Vodafone's incorrect description of the site, its incorrect assertion that the area isn't used by children and that the road is a through road. Vodafone's representative, Darren Fradgeley from their agents, AAP, just repeated his prepared script regardless.

As a courtesy it appears that "Health" is able to be discussed at length in the Informal Hearings - although this has no affect upon the decision. Vodafone of course quoted the UK Government's Planning Policy Guidance notes (PPG8) to ensure that since they have a (meaningless) ICNIRP site certificate for the mast that the Planning Process should take no further notice of health issues. Never the less Dr. Rob Matthew, Vodafone's electromagnetic field specialist, made his rehearsed speech that white is black, black is white and that 'No evidence of harm' had been found in anything subjected to the permitted ICNIRP levels of radio frequency (Operators' talk for microwaves) and that the World Health Organisation (WHO)agreed, as did an 'Independent' Irish group, an Australian group and various unnamed 'Independent' scientists. He also stated that since the maximum signal from the proposed mast would be 3,500 times lower than ICNIRP (approximately 1V/m ) that no harm could possibly be done by it. He kept stressing that reports such as the MTHR could be considered Independent since the funding for them was through a 'firewall' [this is of course ridiculous since the appointees on the committee who use that funding are generally chosen by the Industry and in the case of the MTHR included Michael Repacholi - who was previously an Industry consultant and is now again an Industry consultant - and it is they who decide which studies are funded and determine the areas of research]. A resident from Horsell Residents Association said that the science for Mobile Phone Masts is not clear and that the Government should be properly applying the Stewart report's findings by adopting the Precautionary approach rather than using the elderly and vulnerable members of society as guinea pigs.

I countered Dr. Matthew of Vodafone with reference to Dr. John Walker's work in combining volunteer-collected ill-health and cancer data with Mobile Phone Mast signal strength plots with a significant correlation and explained that the chances of finding clusters of cases of some very rare cancers in a small area are for example 1 in 1000 for 1 case, one in a million (1000 x 1000) for 2 cases and one in a billion (1000 x 1000 x 1000) for 3 cases where the individuals are not genetically related. I also dismissed the counter argument that all such clusters must now be near a mast since there are so many masts by pointing out that the cases found by Dr. Walker occur in homes found in areas of high signal strength around a mast. I submitted a brief extract with plots to the Inspector. Paul Bowyer, the main speaker for the Horsell Way residents on the day, mentioned two recently highlighted cancer clusters in the UK where a Mobile Phone Operator - including Vodafone - had decided to remove a mast after the cluster had been recognised. (Dr. Matthew - of course- claimed that the removal of the mast was not linked).

I also mentioned the excellent BioInitiative report [found at www.bioinitiative.org ]. Vodafone's Dr. Matthew had the audacity to say that such reports and studies are compiled by non-scientists. I corrected that assertion since it and many other studies are compiled by eminent scientists in their fields of study. I also said that the discussion could go on all day, so I would only make a couple more points - one of which was that the World Health Organisation's EMF project had been run by Dr. Michael Repacholi - an Industry consultant before and since - and that its advice was therefore not worth believing. I also mentioned the worthlessness of the ICNIRP certificate granted to all masts such as the one proposed for Horsell Way since it represents only a short-term confirmation that the mast will not cook residents in the vicinity and little else. I finished up by stating that biological negative health effects had been seen down to 0.05 V/m - some 20 times lower than the maximum signal strength of the mast in question [Mobile phones can work down to less than 0.00003 V/m] . Vodafone's Dr. Matthew just repeated himself again afterwards. Vodafone had contradicted themselves so many times by this point that I am sure few people, if any, could have seriously believed a word he was saying. Consequently I felt that there was no need to go on further since many people present would now rightly question the evidence presented by vested interests such as Vodafone.[ Would you ask Jaws if it was safe to swim in the water? ]

[ N.B. Many scientific studies which indicate harm can now be accessed via the excellent new study resource produced by Powerwatch at http://www.powerwatch.org.uk/studies.asp ].

A resident who had previously worked for the Tabacco Industry pointed out the similarities between the mobile phone Industry today and the Tobacco Industry 30 years ago who had claimed for years that there was no health risk from smoking but, in the end, as we all now know, had to admit that smoking was causing harm.

The Planning Inspector allowed the ward Councillors to summarise proceedings and to comment that Vodafone had delayed the Planning Application more than any other party involved. Vodafone made their closing statements and the Hearing was adjourned.

The site visit, after a break for lunch, appeared to go equally well, with the appearance of a little girl next to the excellently mocked-up cabinets ably made by a resident fully displaying the folly of the proposed mast site. I attach a photograph for your interest.

Girl in Pink

A photo of the proposed mast (represented by a balloon on a fishing rod) next to the cabinets is also attached.

Balloon on a stick

Note. Although the weight of the argument appeared to swing in favour of the residents against Vodafone it is entirely down to the Planning Inspector to come to his own conclusions and weight the arguments according to his own terms of reference. In other words, watch this space.

There is a brief news article from the Woking News and Mail reporter present at http://www.woking.co.uk/news/2020/2020051/objectors_accuse_vodafone_of_fraud_at_mast_inquiry


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