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Planning Sanity believes that the time has passed when we can allow the erection of telecommunication masts without proper consideration by the planning authorities. At present the majority of permissions are granted in the form of Permitted Development Rights. This process which is effectively a fast track planning decision making process, is being widely abused, by overworked planning officers (not always deliberately on the part of officers, but pressure of work means they often take the easy route out) and operators alike. Planning Sanity totally condemns this, especially when the health implications of these masts is still not fully known or understood, as well as many masts (despite the recommendation of Sir William Stewart) still being installed near to schools and other sensitive locations. Far too often we still hear of local planning officers advising that they cannot take health into account despite the clear indications from the courts that they have a legal obligation to take health and health concerns into account.
Planning Sanity is calling on members of the public, the media local authorities, Councillors, MPs and MEPs to lobby for a change in the legislation to tighten up the law relating to 'Permitted Development' for telecommunication installations (In particular a number of loopholes that Operators are using). A golden opportunity was lost with the introduction of the New PPG 8 in August 2001, which failed to bring in full planning controls. The few improvements brought about were offset by the numerous loopholes as well as not giving clarity to the question of health. We now need to keep up the pressure until we get justice, and a system that allows full participation by those that have to live with the effects of these developments.
Whilst it is accepted that more research is needed on the consequences of irradiation emitted from these installations, there is genuine concern within the wider community of the health risk from such installations. To allay that fear, and to help lessen the prospect of yet another BSE 'type' health risk being inflicted upon the public Planning Sanity are asking elected representatives and the public to lobby the Government to introduce legislation covering the following points: -
When dealing with health issues, even when the Local Planning Authority (LPA) tell you otherwise you should forget trying to prove an adverse health effect and instead, simply state that you have an abject fear that the base station will potentially affect your health and that of your family. This is a material planning consideration, and must be taken into account. As a consequence of para 29 of PPG8 the local authority have the final say on how much weight to afford to this fear held by the local community, that is they CAN reject an application, if they deem sufficient weight should be afforded to the fear.
The courts have consistently found that health is a material planning consideration, in particular look to the following cases where the High Court granted leave to apply for judicial review due to the failure of the respective local authorities to take the concern of the local communities on health effects of masts - R v Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council ex parte Smith - The Queen on the application of Julia Herman & Others v Winchester City Council and Orange Personal Communications Services Limited - Mr Justice Hooper & The Honourable Mr Justice Ouseley - Case No. CO/956/2001 - R v. Forest of Dean Borough Council. As well as the decision in the Section 288 appeal to the High Court in Trevett v Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Region where the court found that it would fetter the obligation of the decision maker to take the concerns of the public on health into account if they were to restrict their deliberations solely to whether an ICNIRP compliant certificate had been submitted by the Operator. See also Yasmin Skelt v First Secretary of State and Jodie Phillips v First Secretary of State(see the Planning Sanity Briefing on Court cases).
If you want to become involved in the Campaign to Stop the 'Trefid' like spread of these towers then lobby your LPA and elected representative's to adopt the above as their policy, and to ensure they take the matter up at national level to bring about a change in the law relating to Permitted Development Rights and Telecommunication Masks. Also become a member of Planning Sanity, get active and together we can make a real difference.
There is also much to be said for the 'precautionary principle', which gives way to the argument that where a development is likely to have a harmful effect then planning permission should be refused. How far in practice we will get with this argument has yet to be tested, but it is worth flagging up with local authorities.
Action on this issue should be priority for many local community groups; if we are not to have yet another BSE type health problem, further information can be obtained from the Planning Sanity help line 0161 278 3355. We simply cannot wait until applications are actually before the local planning department, so we urge as many local groups and individuals as possible to start lobbying local authorities, councillors, MPs, MEPs, Welsh Assembly Members, SMPs and so forth, now today. But in any event to look out for the all important site deemed to be sensitive in your area, and then point the local authority to the regulations (see above), then lobby as furiously as possible to ensure that they take on board the criteria in those regulations. We can supply sample letters of objection. The final point we ask is that you attach this briefing to a media release and circulate it to all your local media outlets.
There are many reports, briefings and letters on our WEB site and that of Mast Sanity which sets out the health issue, and other specialist topic areas in detail, please refer to these, and then phone our helpline for specific advise. Good luck with your campaign.
(c)Planning Sanity - April 2004 (can be freely used by local communities within their campaigns. Publication by third parties is permitted providing acknowledgment of Planning Sanity is given)
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