Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Muswell Hill residents fight telecoms giants over phone mast

Neighbours are furious that Vodafone and O2 are appealing to the Planning Inspectorate to build the mast in Bedford Road, Muswell Hill - branded an “eyesore” by residents - despite Haringey Council planning officers twice throwing it out for “cluttering” the street.

They fear the corporations will do whatever they can to push the plans through, running roughshod over public opinion and “putting money over people’s lives”.

Tessa Thomas, a health journalist of Alexandra Park Road, is one of several residents to have joined an anti-mast campaign dubbed OMBED (Opposition to the Mast in Bedford Road).

She said: “The mobile phone operators are trying to force this through in the teeth of local opposition and knowing that many of those people are very vulnerable.

“The planning services invite people’s views but then get their arms twisted by operators who make over £1billion a year profits and put this before people’s welfare.

“The consequences if this is allowed to go through could be very serious indeed.”

Vodafone and O2 say the mast, set to be built on the pavement outside Alexandra Palace railway station, is needed to provide 3G coverage and better mobile phone reception for customers in the area.

But almost 30 letters of protest were sent to a planning committee when the scheme was unveiled in May last year. It came just months before a similar application by the mobile phone companies was also rejected for a site on the same street.

A string of objections said the pole would block the narrow pavement, ruin the approach to the historic Alexandra Palace and be far too close to homes and a nearby community centre The JAN Trust.

Critics also fear that radiation emissions could pose serious health risks like dizziness, depression and hearing problems.

Rafaat Mughal, founding director of the women’s organisation The JAN Trust, said: “We have thousands of people visit us every year with problems like domestic violence and sex trafficking - one word about these health risks and they won’t come anymore and we’ll have to shut down.

“These companies put money over people’s lives and these are vulnerable hard to reach communities.”

The Planning Inspectorate is set to decide on whether to overrule Haringey Council’s Planning Committee in the coming weeks.

But even if the scheme is rejected, residents fear they will not hear the last of it.

Alexandra ward councillor Nigel Scott branded the mast an “eyesore”, adding: “The problem with large companies with huge amounts of money is that they can keep on appealing for as long as it takes. The whole system is skewed against local residents, but this is what we’ve come to expect.”

He added that residents’ suggestions to relocate the mast somewhere else along the railway line and away from people’s homes have so far been ignored.

A spokeswoman for Vodafone said radiation levels are well below national guidelines, adding: “We recognise that some communities are concerned regarding the deployment of radio base stations close to residential areas but without radio base stations, mobile phones will not be able to work.”

Muswell Hill residents fight telecoms giants over phone mast - News - Hornsey Journal

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