Council apologises over mobile phone mast row

RED-faced council officials have this week issued an apology after a delay led to developers building a mobile phone mast.

Residents in Parkstone Road and surrounding streets were left fuming when Hutchison 3G put up the 12ft-high mast by St Peter and St Pauls Church without permission.

The row broke out because the company’s application was refused back in 2006 but it said it was never told its proposal had been turned down.

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 had fouled up.

Councillor Peter Chowney, the council’s lead member for planning, said: “I am very angry that the council allowed the phone company to ignore residents’ concerns. We could have stopped this happening, if we had done our job properly. I fully understand why residents are so frustrated and annoyed. I can only apologise unreservedly for what happened.

“However, this planning decision was made nearly five years ago. We have significantly improved practices in the planning department since then.

“In particular, all such decisions are now sent to developers in good time and by recorded delivery, so there can be no question about when and whether the notification was received. I intend to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”