Sprowston residents angry about new mobile phone mast

Residents in Sprowston have been angered by the news that they are set to get a new mobile phone mast in their community - and they have no say in the matter.

Planning permission has been granted for Telefonica UK to erect the 12.5m mast on North Walsham Road, on a tree-lined verge close to the shop and petrol station at the Tills Road junction.

A petition with more than 240 names on is being circulated, but Broadland District Council says it had no grounds on which to reject the application.

Christine Adams is one of the residents who will live closest to the mast - which will be shared by Vodafone and O2 - and has been involved with campaigning against it.

Referring to government guidance for such applications, she said: 'The manual states that health issues only cannot be a ground for refusal but the manual does state that precautions should be taken, such as not placing the mast near a school.

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'The mast will be placed outside a very busy shop and opposite the school crossing. The masses of children who use the shop before and after school will be standing next to the mast.

'Due to the shop and the crossing, it is the busiest part of the North Walsham Road, but one planning officer's decision to put a mast there cannot be rescinded and there is no appeal.'

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Broadland district council insists it had no grounds on which to reject the 'application for prior approval' as the government's stance is that phone masts are needed to meet public demand for phone signal.

A spokesman said: 'It's not a planning application, as such, as masts are designated 'permitted development' nationally so don't need it.

'Under national rules, councils are not allowed to refuse 'prior approval' because of health concerns, as long as the applicant supplies a certificate to say the mast complies with World Health Organisation guidelines.

'We can only take into account considerations like whether the appearance of the mast would be inappropriate for a particular area and whether it might limit visibility for traffic.'

The spokesman also added that 250 consultation letters were sent to households nearby to the proposed mast, as well as posting a site notice and advertising in the local press, but that only eight letters of objection were returned.

'We didn't feel there was sufficient reason, given what we are allowed to take into account, to prevent the mast being erected,' the spokesman said.

- Are you starting a community campaign? Call reporter David Freezer on 01603 772418 or email david.freezer@archant.co.uk

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