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Lib Dems Challenge Phone Masts on Health Grounds

March 18, 2005 12:40 AM

This Friday 18 March, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Andrew Stunell MP will present a bill to Parliament that aims to bring mobile phone masts under strict planning control and bring in the 'precautionary principle', giving extra safeguards for schools, homes, and medical facilities from the risk of excessive radiation.

The positioning of mobile phone masts has caused controversy across the country as masts have been put up close to schools, hospitals and residential areas. Local planning authorities do not currently have any powers to block mast applications for masts below 15m and only have limited powers for those above.

Parmjit has tabled a number of Parliamentary Questions asking how many Masts have been put up specifically, in Leicester since Labour came to power.

Commenting, Parmjit said:

"The Conservatives did a deal with the phone companies when they were in government to cut planning controls for masts.

"It is easier to get planning permission for a mast than it is for a porch. This is an alarming situation and needs to be addressed."

"This bill will allow planning authorities to take account of health concerns and will require the industry to produce more evidence about the radiation emitted, and to justify the need for each mast."

"I hope that the bill gains all party support given the unknown and as yet un-researched effects the masts might have on public health."


Notes to editors:

1) The Telecommunications Mast (Planning Control) Bill is a Private Members Bill introduced by Andrew Stunell MP (Liberal Democrat), and with all party support and MP sponsors from the three main parties.

2) First Reading: 12th January 2005

Second Reading debate timetabled for 18th March 2005.

3) Andrew Stunell's Bill is based on the work of the All Party Mobile Phones Group, whose report last year recommended the re-imposition of normal planning controls on phone masts (at present there are wide-spread exemptions which frustrate objectors and planning authorities), and the adoption of the 'Precautionary Principle' when considering applications.

The main provisions of the Bill reflect these recommendations:

Clause 1 specifies that every mast application must include a 'precautionary principle' statement. If that statement does not give a particular mast a clean bill of health, that can now be a reason for refusal. (At present all health issues are reserved to central government in relation to masts.)

Clause 2 requires that the statement set out details about the intensity and direction of the signal radiated from the mast. If the strongest part of the radiation falls on school or other educational buildings or land, or on any medical facilities, or on homes then, in certain circumstances, that could provide sufficient grounds for refusal of planning permission. (At present a Planning Authority can take no such evidence into account).

Another important step is to bring all masts back within the planning system - at present those below 15 metres high (around 50 feet) are exempt from control.

4) The measures in the Bill are opposed by the Government and by the mobile phone industry.

Supporters of the proposals are asked to encourage their MP to support the Bill, and also to write in support to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (responsible for planning legislation), and to the Department of Trade and Industry (responsible for the mobile phone industry), encouraging them to adopt the precautionary principle, and to withdraw their opposition to the Bill.

Sir William Stewart, the former Chief Adviser to government, originally crystallised concerns about health risks associated with telecommunications masts in his first Report. The present Bill, and the work of the All Party Group, takes much of its inspiration from Sir William's work.

Footnote: Sir William has just issued a second report, recommending that young children should not use mobile phones because of un-quantified risks to their health from radiation. This is not covered in the present Bill.