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'BE MORE SENSITIVE' WHEN ALLOCATING MOBILE PHONE MASTS

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One of the country's top judges today called on local authorities and government planning inspectors to take into a...
One of the country's top judges today called on local authorities and government planning inspectors to take into account the health concerns of the public when dealing with what he called the 'sensitive issue' of where to site mobile phone masts.

The judge's comments came as he allowed a mother-to-be's challenge to a new 'third generation' mobile phone mast mounted just seven metres away from the back gate of her Waterlooville home.

In what is thought to be the first High Court challenge to a third generation mobile mast, Mr Justice Richards today quashed the planning permission granted to mobile phone operators Hutchison 3G to place the 12.5 metre mast behind Jodie Phillips Waterlooville home, and near a local nursery school called 'Little Acorns'.

And the judge said that when dealing with planning applications concerning mobile masts, the decision-makers should go beyond deciding whether a particular site passes the test for suitability. They should also look at alternatives to see whether there was a better site, taking public concerns into account in their decision.

He said: 'The question, as it seems to me, is not just 'is this an acceptable location?', but 'is this the best location?' and for the purpose of answering that question, one can and should look at whatever alternative possibilities there may be.'

Adding that government planning guidance listed public health concerns as a material consideration, he continued: 'No doubt the existence of such concerns is one of the reasons why the location of telecommunications structures is such a sensitive issue.

'It seems to me to follow that, if there were two alternative sites each of which was otherwise acceptable in environmental terms, it would be open to a decision-maker to refuse approval for one of those sites if location of a mast on that site would give rise to substantially greater concerns than its location on the alternative site.'

Afterwards solicitor Richard Buxton who specialises in cases involving environmental issues said: 'Mobile phone masts are a real problem. Residents hate them, and they are hard to challenge. This judgement gives some hope to residents by making it clear that companies must look for the best places or their equipment - not just spots that are most convenient for them for being cheap or easy to get permission from.'

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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