Health concerns over phone mast

Ian Rosenvinge
Ian Rosenvinge

PLANNERS are recommending that a mobile phone mast be erected near a parachute centre – despite health concerns from a doctor’s surgery.

Mobile phone giant Vodafone wants to put up a 45ft mast near the access road for Shotton Airfield, which is run by owner Ian Rosenvinge.

There are already two phone masts in the area, including one owned by Vodafone at a haulage depot at Shotton Industrial Estate.

But the company must find an alternative place to put their mast as the depot is being redeveloped.

Vodafone has submitted documentation as part of its application to show the proposals are designed in full compliance with the requirements of radio-frequency public exposure guidelines.

But Durham County Council has received letters of objection from a doctor’s surgery, Councillor Robin Todd, who represents Shotton on the local authority, and a local resident, who have raised concerns about health, suitability of site, cumulative impact and property values.

A report to the council’s planning committee, which will meet on Tuesday, May 10, says: “With regards to health concerns, the Government is clear in its advice leaflet that ‘it is its firm view that the planning system is not the appropriate mechanism for determining health safeguards.

“It remains central Government’s responsibility to decide what measures are necessary to protect public health.

“In the Government’s view, if the proposed development meets the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection guidelines for public exposure it should not be necessary for a local planning authority, in processing an application for planning permission or prior approval, to consider further the health aspects or concerns about them’.”

The council’s planning policy says local planning authorities “are encouraged to respond positively to telecommunications development proposals... while taking account of the advice on the protection of urban and rural areas in other planning policy guidance notes”.

It adds: “In terms of the Local Plan the proposal would not be seen to have an adverse effect on the amenity of people living and working in the vicinity of the development site and the existing use of the adjacent land or buildings.”

The document also refers to the Stewart report, commissioned by the Government in May 2000 to look into the effects of mobile phone masts.

The report says: “In respect of base stations, the Stewart Report concluded that ‘the balance of evidence indicates that there is no general risk to the health of people living near to base stations on the basis that exposures are expected to be small fractions of the guidelines.

“However, there can be indirect adverse effects on their well-being in some cases.”