Local residents win fight over phone mast in church

A local community has fought off plans to install a telephone mast in the spire of St Luke’s Church.

Vodaphone and O2 had asked St Luke’s if they could build a telephone mast into the spire of the church to increase 3G coverage in the area, but residents were concerned that a new mast would be too close to St Luke’s primary school across the road.

St Luke’s church would have been paid around £9,000 per year for putting a mast in its spire, but the strong resistance from concerned local residents meant that the plans have been scrapped.

Glen Keywood, a representative from a local resident’s group said that the significant amount of local pressure was a key factor in the proposal’s failure.

The mast would have been of benefit to customers of O2 and Vodafone, providing increased signal.

At an open evening held at the church on Gibbon Road, Graham Brown, a spokesperson for O2 and Vodafone said: “We haven’t had one proposal turned down on Health and Safety grounds. They [masts] are harmless.”

He added: “In the last year, 37 masts have been built and we’re working on another 80.”

St Luke’s Church also houses a nursery, and local MP Zac Goldsmith has spoken out against the plans.

Talking to local community group BraG, Mr Goldsmith said: Given the scientific uncertainties, my own view is that they [masts] should not be put up close to schools.

“I have already registered my own objections, and would encourage you, and other residents to do the same.”

Waldon Telecom, the company behind the proposal, insisted that the mast would have been a benefit to the local community as it provides improved phone coverage and a financial benefit to the church. They also assured residents that the mast does not present a health and safety risk.

 A spokesperson for the proposal said of the health issues: “All of our base stations are built in accordance with international guidelines laid down by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.  The adoption of these guidelines has the backing of the World Health Organisation.”

Speaking before the proposal was turned down, it added: “Typical public exposures from our base stations will be many hundreds, if not thousands, of times below these guidelines.”

Currently, there are many reports supporting the claim that telephone masts pose no health risk. Yet there have also been reports of those living near masts suffering from such ailments as headaches, sleep disruption and nosebleeds.

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