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Concerns mount over mobile phones

PUBLISHED: 23:00 16 October 2001 | UPDATED: 10:40 03 March 2010

GROWING concerns over health risks from mobile phone masts have prompted authorities to decide what they will and will not allow on their own land.

Suffolk Coastal District Council has agreed a policy which it hopes will "plot a sensible way ahead" through the concerns stirred up by telecommunications companies need for extra masts to keep up with new technology.

GROWING concerns over health risks from mobile phone masts have prompted authorities to decide what they will and will not allow on their own land.

Suffolk Coastal District Council has agreed a policy which it hopes will "plot a sensible way ahead" through the concerns stirred up by telecommunications companies need for extra masts to keep up with new technology.

The mobile phone sector is continuing to grow massively – it is estimated that the four main operators now have over 40 million users between them.

The recent sale of 'new generation' licences by the Government raised £22.5 billion from the companies, but is expected to mean that 60,000 to 100,000 new mast sites could be needed across the country during the next five years.

Planning authorities like Suffolk Coastal are at the sharp end of public concerns about the safety of mobile phone masts and receive many objections from the public to any proposed new installations.

"The council's hands are often tied on these types of planning applications because if the masts are below a certain height then we do not have the power to make a decision for or against the proposal," said council leader Ray Herring.

"However, we do have more freedom when it comes to our own land, and this policy will address some of our community's concerns.

"This is a major growth industry which is not about to disappear, and this council thinks it needs to cut through all the claims and counter claims about safety and agree a policy for the future which is based on the best possible available information and that will safeguard our quality of life.

"We will now not allow masts on our land near schools or other locations in frequent use by children, and equally we will try to ensure that they do not stick out like sore thumbs on historic buildings or in nature conservation areas.

"However, we must be realistic and accept that there are sites where their installation is both safe and not out of place. The law will not allow us to turn our back on the advance of new technology, nor do I think it would be right to.

"This policy will hopefully balance the often justified concerns of residents with the demands of sometimes the same residents that they receive a quality telecommunications service."

The resources sub committee was told the latest Government guidance is that a precautionary approach be taken to these types of masts, but the Government considers councils should not refuse planning permission on health grounds as all mobile phone base stations are expected to meet international guidelines on limiting public exposure to radio waves.

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