Blunder over mast sparks row

Angry residents beside the mast in Grange Avenue.
Angry residents beside the mast in Grange Avenue.

RESIDENTS are fuming after a council delay has led to developers building a mobile phone mast in their neighbourhood.

Hutchison 3G was refused permission to put up the mast on the corner of Grange Avenue and Parkstone Road beside St Peter and St Pauls Church back in 2006 but the firm said it was never told the application had been turned down. Councillors threw out the proposal in April that year, saying it was out of keeping with the area.

Under planning legislation mobile phone companies have to receive notice of the authority’s decision within eight weeks and if they do not, they can go ahead setting up the mast within a five-year period.

The council sent its refusal letter to Hutchison 3G on Friday, May 26, 2006, by first class post, three days before the eight-week deadline ended, but over a Bank Holiday weekend.

This week the authority admitted it was unable to prove when the letter was actually delivered and received, leaving residents reeling.

Terence Knight, of Parkstone Road, said more than 1,000 people signed a petition in protest against the original application.

He said: “This is disgusting as these things are really dangerous and no one wants the mast here.

“The residents are all up in arms but the developers say they are allowed to put it up by default, as they claim they never got the council’s letter of refusal.

“There are children going to and fro all the time and there is also a children’s playgroup at the church twice a week.”

The town’s MP Amber Rudd was equally as livid.

She said: “It is absolutely disgraceful and ridiculous.

“The company clearly does not care and it is no way to treat residents. I have written to the developers asking for a meeting to be set up between them, myself and the residents, who have really been let down.”

A council spokesman said: “This is an extremely unfortunate situation. We rejected this application as we didn’t feel it would be in keeping with its surroundings.

“However, the company says that our letter of rejection did not reach its offices within the eight-week deadline. We had discussions to voice our concerns and yet regrettably the company decided to go ahead with the mast.”

A spokesman for Hutchison 3G said: “The council did not respond within the agreed legal timescale which it accepts so that means we could go ahead and build this mast.”

He said the firm tried to work closely with the council to try and find an alternative site elsewhere and delayed development for more than six months. The spokesman added: “The planning department found a different location which we were happy with but the planning committee went against the recommendation. There has been a lot of research in the UK by the Government and Health Protection Agency and it is very clear that there are no threats to health from these masts.”