Give local people the final say on mobile masts' says Ruffley 'This would be the biggest shake-up to mast planning laws for twenty years'

Monday, 4 October, 2004

David Ruffley MP this week welcomed proposed new laws by the Conservative Opposition to give local people the final say over the location of mobile phone masts. Representing the biggest changes in planning regulations since the 1984 Telecommunications Act, Conservatives would ensure all masts require full planning permission, that health concerns are taken into account and that visual intrusion is reduced.

The policies come amid warnings that under 3G technology, there could be an estimated 100,000 more masts being sited across the country, in addition to new 'Tetra' and Network Rail masts. The latest example of this is an application by the mobile phone operator Orange that wants to site a fifteen metre high mobile phone mast on the Barton Road trading Estate in Bury, just opposite The Bartons residential estate on Moreton Hall. David Ruffley has personally been campaigning in the area to encourage residents to have their say on this planning application.

Launching a campaign to highlight the new policies entitled,'You decide where they go', David Ruffley explained:

'The erection of poorly-located masts has been causing considerable disquiet across many parts of Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket. There is a presumption in favour of development inherent in the current planning system, which wrongly overrides local, environmental and safety concerns.

'In addition to my leaflet campaign on Moreton Hall I will now be writing to all Parish Councils in my constituency and all interested groups, such as those in Stowupland, who have been campaigning on this issue to highlight the new Conservative proposals and our policy consultation. I would encourage as many people as possible to comment on these proposals, which can be accessed in full on my website, at www.davidruffleymp.com.'

Under the new five point plan unveiled by Conservatives:

1. All mobile phone mast developments would require full planning permission, so that local councillors are clearly accountable and answerable for where masts are located.

2. There would be a single process for deciding all masts, including those on Network Rail or church property, Tetra masts, as well as small antennas being covertly installed in street furniture or signs.

3. Councils would be allowed to take health concerns into account such as near homes, hospitals and schools. Current national planning guidance prohibits this.

4. Mast operators would be required to demonstrate that any development does not result in unacceptable damage to visual amenity or harm environmentally sensitive features.

5. Councils would be asked to draw up their own supplementary planning guidance to ensure consistency and clarity for operators and residents, and ensure a plan-led approach to future development.

David Ruffley added:

'We all want to be able to use a mobile phone, but this doesn't mean masts should be constructed without any regard for the well-being of local people. Conservatives will champion the interests of local residents and address the feelings of powerlessness and frustration experienced by those living under the threat of badly sited masts. Local councillors, answerable to local residents via the ballot box, should have the final say on the best location for any new masts.'

Notes to Editors

The policy consultation document, which applies to England, is available at:

http://www.conservatives.com/pdf/masts-policydocument.pdf

'3G' masts are those required to support new '3rd generation' mobile phone technology such as video-calling. 'Tetra' masts are part of a new police secure communications system, but have attracted particular controversy because of concerns about the impact of their electro-magnetic radiation on human health.