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POLICE CAUGHT UP IN COMMS MAST PLANNING CONSENT GAMBLE

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A judge has condemned a police telecommunications mast built on a Warwick farm 'in the clearest possible breach of ...
A judge has condemned a police telecommunications mast built on a Warwick farm 'in the clearest possible breach of planning control'.

Mr Justice Fulford said the mast's erection on farm land last year had caused local 'outrage'.

The mast, a vital link in a nationwide 'Airwave' police communiciations system which is due to go active next month, was put up in 'deliberate' breach of planning control by Airwave MMO2 Ltd, said the judge.

The company had applied to Warwick DC for temporary planning consent on November 6 and had 'gambled' in erecting the mast on 18 November before the council had reached a decision.

Planning consent was soon after refused on visual intrusion and other grounds but, far from being dismantled, the mast was put into service, the judge told London's High Court.

The council issued an enforcement notice and, on 2 April, Mr Justice Newman granted an injunction requiring the mast's removal.

But the judge granted a stay of execution until 7 May after hearing that the mast is viewed as essential by the Warwickshire Constabulary who fear delays in the new 'Airwave' system could put the public at risk.

The council agreed to an extension of the deadline until 11 June and Mr Justice Fulford has now granted another extension until 26 July.

The judge said the dispute had placed Warwickshire Constabulary in an 'anomolous and awkward' position.

Whilst 'undoubtedly depracating' the breach of planning control, the force nevertheless felt it had no choice but to support Airwave MMO2 in its bid for an extension of the deadline.

The judge said he was only swayed to move the deadline to 26 July by police concerns that, if the 'Airwave' system does not go operational in Warwickshire next month, the public could be put at risk.

He said it was 'profoundly unsatisfactory' that the force found itself having to support an applicat ion made by a commercially motivated company in deliberate breach of planning control.

Airwave MMO2's explanation for the slippage of the deadline was that negotiations to build a replacement mast on an alternative site had run into difficulties and taken far longer than expected.

And, in granting the extension to 26 July, Mr Justice Fulford accepted the 'unexpected and, to a large extent, inexplicable' delay was due to factors 'beyond the control' of Airwave MMO2.

However, the judge said he expected the company to devote all its efforts and financial resources to ensuring that the Jephson's Farm mast is dismantled by the new 26 July deadline.

Any further attempt to extend the deadline, the judge said, would have to be backed by detailed evidence of the efforts made by the company and from Warwickshire Constabulary as to why the 'Airwave' system is considered so essential.

He concluded: 'It is only because of the position of the Warwickshire Police that this application has been successful at all.'

The court heard earlier that Airwave MMO2 has lodged an appeal against the council's refusal of planning consent for the mast and a government planning inspector is expected to rule on it later this summer.

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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