Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I welcome proposed new laws by Conservatives to give local people the final say over the location of mobile phone masts. Representing the biggest changes in planning regulations since the 1984 Telecommunications Act, Conservatives would ensure all masts require full planning permission, that health concerns are taken into account and visual intrusion is reduced.

The policies come amid warnings that under 3G technology, there could be an estimated 100,000 more masts being sited across the country, in addition to new ‘Tetra’ and Network Rail masts. This policy could have stopped controversial Masts in places like the Bowthorpe Park, the Ipswich Road and in Eaton.

The erection of poorly-located masts has been causing considerable disquiet across many parts of Norwich. There is a presumption in favour of development inherent in the current planning system, which overrides local, environmental and safety concerns.

Under the new five point plan unveiled by Conservatives:
1. All mobile phone mast developments would require full planning permission, so that local councillors are clearly accountable and answerable for where masts are located.
2. There would be a single process for deciding all masts, including those on Network Rail or church property, Tetra masts, as well as small antennas being covertly installed in street furniture or signs.
3. Councils would be allowed to take health concerns into account such as near homes, hospitals and schools. Current national planning guidance prohibits this.
4. Mast operators would be required to demonstrate that any development does not result in unacceptable damage to visual amenity or harm environmentally sensitive features.
5. Councils would be asked to draw up their own supplementary planning guidance to ensure consistency and clarity for operators and residents, and ensure a plan-led approach to future development.

We all want to be able to use a mobile phone, but this doesn’t mean masts should be constructed without any regard for the well-being of local people. Conservatives will champion the interests of local residents and address the feelings of powerlessness and frustration experienced by those living under the threat of badly sited masts. Local councillors, answerable to local residents via the ballot box, should have the final say on the best location for any new masts.

If we had this new Conservatives then maybe the LibDems would have the guts to vote against more and more mobile phone masts instead of continually breaking their word and supporting them.

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