|Betreff: GRAM Appeal Against Vodafone DISMISSED
|Von: Mobile phone mast network
|Datum: Wed, 20 Sep 2006 23:10:14 +0100|
|It was back on Wednesday 30th August
2006 when the Informal Public
Hearing was held to decide the fate of the proposed Vodafone mast
adjacent to residents' homes in Goldsworth Park, Woking, Surrey.
Up to 70 concerned residents virtually filled the main Council Chamber of Woking Borough Council's Civic Offices. They were opposing Vodafone's concerted attempts to erect a 12m mast along Lockfield Drive adjacent to Fenwick Close and opposite the junction with Wyndham Road.
Vodafone were represented by Tony Thorpe, a Chartered Town Planner, Dr. Rob Matthews - EMF Advisory Unit on Health – a Physicist, Richard Knowles - Vodafone Regional Planning Specialist and Barry Lennon a Vodafone Coverage Engineer. Woking Borough Council were represented by Planning Assistant Daniel Olliffe. The Government Planning Inspector was Mrs Elizabeth Fieldhouse.
Vodafone genuinely seemed surprised to see so many residents opposed to the application in the week following August bank holiday when so many people are away. When the Inspector asked if anyone had come to support the application there was a stony silence. She went through the statements of the case from both Vodafone and Woking Borough Council, followed by the issue of screening (the key point), alternative sites, the precedent of previously approved appeals nearby, health issues, then any other business before a final summing up.
On screening, Vodafone did not seem to realise that the screening they were relying upon were actually trees in a resident's garden. These had become diseased in the time since their original application and been cut down. Since Vodafone had not been back, it would seem, to check on this they wrongly stated that the screening was dense evergreen. Residents were able to tell them that it was now only a couple of thin deciduous trees. The residents produced winter-time pictures from their garden with and without a mast super-imposed on where it would appear.
Vodafone were asked to clarify the height of nearby street lights - they first had said 10m, then they said 8m and in the end they couldn't answer if they were 10m or 8m, so tried to move on to the next topic. The Inspector said she would check the height of the street lights at the site visit.
Vodafone were then asked the width of the proposed mast and antenna shroud, which they couldn't seem to do. They resorted to measuring and scaling up the tiny paper plan. In the end they contradicted themselves on the width of the proposed mast antenna shroud, as being either 0.16m or 0.25m. The Inspector accepted that it would probably be no wider than 0.25m. Vodafone appeared somewhat unprofessional with their lack of preparation.
Some residents already with a mast next to their homes were there and said what it was like for them living with a mast right next to their house - Trying to sell the property was now a seemingly impossible task since, as soon as any potential buyers saw the mast they lost interest in the house; Being forced to buy microwave screening material to put up over the windows etc. which was expensive and unattractive.
On the alternative sites provided by Vodafone there were a mixture of nearby locations seemingly picked at random from a big list. Additionally, one resident questioned the inclusion of the alternative site 2 km away - the Leisure Centre at Kingfield - and wondered why Vodafone hadn't suggested the nearby Football Club with its existing antennas.
At this point residents vigorously questioned the need for 3G, and the idea that they should need "in-fill" for rush-hour extra capacity. How can you use 3G (picture messaging) whilst driving through as a commuter? Again, Vodafone seemed surprised to be challenged on this point. One resident had brought pictures taken of Vodafone's own website showing current 3G coverage for the borough. It showed full 1.4MBit 3G download speed all over Woking. At this point, in front of 50 or so remaining witnesses, Richard Knowles from Vodafone was forced to say that the whole website “is misleading” and that customers wouldn't get such a service without further masts being added in future. Yet the Vodafone website is there claiming the full 3G coverage that they are trying to sell to potential customers. It was pointed out that this is at least mis-representation, possibly fraud! Those present were astounded at Vodafone's admission. The Inspector didn't seem overly impressed.
Vodafone attempted to counter the claim that users were being encouraged to use in-car picture messaging (which would be illegal) during the rush-hour by saying that 3G is more efficient for voice calls. Residents countered that the fully-provided GSM (2G) network can already deal adequately with voice calls and more, so where was the need for a 3G mast?
Moving on to precedent, Vodafone attempted to say that the current appeal should follow the previous appeals in allowing the mast to be erected based on the effect of the mast on the street scene. Woking's Daniel Olliffe countered by saying that the current case concerned residents' visual amenity, not street scene, plus another appeal just a short distance away had also upheld Woking's initial refusal. Another resident mentioned yet another appeal, near to the Nuffield Hospital in Woking which was more similar to the current site which had upheld the Council's rejection on “visual amenity”.
On health, residents were invited to give their information first. One resident told us how two of his dogs have developed tumours since the other nearby mobile phone masts were erected 18 months ago. The vet can not explain the tumours, and the dogs are not related. The ward councillor told of a family with a child who was susceptible to electro-magnetic fields, like those given out by masts, for whom concern was even higher. Residents countered Vodafone's use of the Danish Interphone study in their papers by refuting it and adding the findings of the other EU funded Interphone studies, plus the Nailia study from Germany.
Dr. Matthews from Vodafone dismissed the residents' studies as not being properly peer-reviewed and/or flawed in various ways. He also made extensive use of the World Health Organisation Reports. He claimed that the ICNIRP certificate included Non-Thermal considerations [which it most certainly does not] and that health risks were over-hyped. "There is no scientific evidence to say that the masts are not safe", he said. Residents countered by pointing out that the World Health Organisation EMF Project's Chief at the time of the reports, Mike Rapacholi, had left the WHO just before it was discovered that he was being paid expenses by the Mobile Operators. "Say no more" the resident said. Vodafone's Dr. Matthews said that Rapacholi had purely "retired".
Lastly, residents mentioned other inconsistencies in Vodafone's submitted statements, such as the claim that a site notice had been served, when no one had seen it. Also, why a distant school was notified, not the two nearer schools, etc. The usual "10 Commitments" voluntary consultations by Vodafone had been made to Councillors, and were promptly ignored by Vodafone.
It appeared quite obvious that applications made by Mobile Phone Operators are often treated as a box-filling exercises, and are not usually the subject of much scrutiny by Council Officers and possibly later by equally over-worked, and remote, Government Planning Inspectors. Under detailed examination residents were able to show this particular example to be quite shoddy. Local residents hope that this was Mrs. Fieldhouse's lasting impression of Vodafone's application and subsequent appeal submissions.
One final thing that Vodafone's Tony Thorpe tried to do, just before the final summarizing, was to leave the Inspector after her summary with what he termed "Information" taken from a Planning magazine which related to O2 having had an Appeal over-turned in the High Court (relating to a site in Littlehampton) when an Inspector accepted that residents' "perceived health risks" outweighed the ICNIRP certificate (mast operating license). One resident complained that since she had not been given the opportunity to give the Inspector a DVD/CD-ROM containing a Presentation by an expert on cancer clusters in proximity to Mobile Phone Masts, that Vodafone should not be able to give the Inspector their “Information” paper. The Inspector agreed and the "Information" was returned to them. The Hearing was adjourned at 1.40 pm.
At the site visit, at 2.15pm, it was easy to see the obvious lack of real screening between the residences and the proposed mast site. Also it could be seen that houses opposite did have windows looking out on to where the mast would be, contrary to Vodafone's claim. The Inspector was able to see that the area is not 'isolated' as Vodafone claimed it was, having joggers etc. walking along the verge and even a pedestrian crossing nearby.
The Inspector had the heights of the inner and outer bank measured to discover that the house next to the proposed mast was not on higher ground, contrary to Vodafone's claim.
The result of the hearing was not announced on the day. So local residents had an anxious wait for nearly 3 weeks, until they heard the result of the appeal. Luckily the wait was well worth it, and the Inspector Dismissed Vodafone's Appeal, so the residents' hard work paid off. Residents can not drop their guard, however, since Vodafone could contest the Appeal Decision. Let us hope they see sense - for once.
Goldsworth Residents Against the Masts (GRAM) 20th September 2006