Milton Advertiser - 22nd November 2003
anger over Tetra masts
Council planning committee chairman Coun. Pat Wyeth has slammed the
actions of Airwave MMO2, which has put up two controversial
terrestrial trunked radio (Tetra) masts for New Forest police without
planning permission. "That a company acting on behalf of both
the Government and the police should choose to be so indifferent to
the concerns of the local community and ride roughshod over the
planning system only serves to undermine the public's confidence in
the credibility of our public institutions," she said.
Despite the health fears of residents who live near a Tetra mast put
up without planning permission in Dibden, NFDC has not demanded that
it ends transmission. Explaining the reasons behind the decision, a
report from principal planning officer Steve Avery stated that
serving a stop notice on health grounds would not be in accordance
with national planning guidance and could lead to costs being awarded
Enforcement notices requiring the masts to be removed on visual
grounds notices had been served although O2 lodged an appeal against
them. Because of high levels of local concern the appeals will be
heard at a public enquiry.
"In deciding whether or not to serve a stop notice, the Council
is required to carry out a cost/benefit assessment of taking such
action, i.e. weighing the private costs likely to be incurred by the
developer against the benefits that would accrue to the wider public.
"In this instance, the agents acting for Airwave advised that
they would incur substantial financial costs as a consequence of any
stop notice action and that the Hampshire police force would be
unable to test their new telecommunications system." his report stated.
It continued: "It is very regrettable that Airwave have chosen
to circumvent the planning system and erect a mast without planning
permission. A similar situation has also occurred at Fritham and
again, an enforcement notice has been served. Airwave have been
notified in writing that if any further masts are erected without
planning permission, the Council will take immediate and robust
Coun. Wyeth has written to the chief constable of Hampshire and the
Deputy Prime Minister stating that they have a "moral duty to
help ensure these unauthorised masts are now removed as a matter of
urgency and that any further masts are only erected having first been
subjected to the normal scrutiny of our planning system".
As previously reported, O2 Airwave's spokesperson told the
"A&T" that in some cases planning permission was being
sought retrospectively because the system was needed quickly and that
ultimately all masts would carry planning permission.
At last month's meeting of Dibden Residents Against Tetra (DRAT),
John O'Brien of Protect Sussex from Tetra accused Airwave of using
"bullying tactics". "They are working to a commercial
deadline and their tactics are to put masts wherever. They claim they
have emergency powers as they are working for the emergency
services," he said. Mr O'Brien also warned Dibden residents of
health risks linked to low-level electromagnetic radiation, including
childhood cancer, miscarriage, and fatigue.
Claims were made at the DRAT meeting that the system operates at
17.6Hz, which is similar to the brain's frequency of 16Hz, but this
was countered by Airwave's spokesperson who said that masts transmit
at between 380 and 400Hz and that only coding systems on the handsets
operate at 17.65Hz.
At last weeks planning committee meeting Coun. Maureen Holding
stated: "O2 have gone to great lengths to say these masts do not
pulse. I would question this, as would many other people. I've been
told that officers have been instructed not to report illnesses to
their medical officers, but to go straight to their GP's.... Tetra
will cost in excess of £3 billion. The same French system cost
£300 million. There is something wrong. We should refuse
permission and insist it be taken down."
Three schools are sited within 500 metres of the Dibden mast, added
DRAT chairman Barrie Slipper. "People living near these masts
experience headaches, nausea and loss of sleep," he said.
Coun. Robin Harrison countered claims that the masts caused health
problems, but added concerns for police using the system.
"Current research is not supporting the idea that pulsed signals
are any worse than non pulsed ones. We've got to face it, the
evidence is against them having a health risk here. Handsets are far
more likely to do more damage than masts," he said.
Speaking on behalf of O2, Peter Sitch admitted that earlier problems
with handsets "spiking" injured some officers' hearing, but
he stated that Motorola cured this problem quickly. "The science
is very clear. There is no demonstrable risk to health ," he said.
Tetra has faced widespread opposition, but O2's spokesperson
insisted that the system operates well within national and European guidelines.
An independent research scientist, Roger Coghill, who is also a
member of the Department of Health's UK mobile telecommunications
health research programme, was quoted in the Guardian in May 2001 as
stating: "A criminal could not have come up with a better
system. They couldn't have chosen a better frequency with which to
disarm and debilitate the very forces that are trying to secure their arrest."
The Guardian's article also quoted Alasdair Phillips, director of
the campaign group Powerwatch and an expert on the biological effects
of electromagnetic radiation. "It is beyond belief that anyone
could be contemplating the roll out of a system like Tetra because of
the evidence about the dangers of pulsed frequencies. To design a
communications system based on these principals is mind numbing. The
effects we may see could well be on a par with Gulf War syndrome."
The Police Federation's statement on Tetra reports that it
recognises the benefits of the system's clearer communication leading
to greater officer safety, but that concerns remain over having the
system "imposed" before complete results of possible
long-term health effects are known. "We understand the huge
potential and operational benefits Tetra can provide, however no one
can categorically state whether the system is safe of unsafe. In the
meantime officers have no option but to use the system because
analogue wavebands are becoming obsolete.
"The police Federation demands for health monitoring have been
accepted and we welcome the Government's agreement to fund a 15 year
health monitoring study of police Airwave users. A £5 million
study will be conducted by Imperial College London," the report stated.