Council rapped over mast decision

FAMILIES who complained about the way a council handled a project to put a mobile phone mast near their homes are today set to receive compensation.Suffolk Coastal refused the scheme for the 31ft mast in Coronation Drive, Felixstowe – but made the decision just one day too late.

FAMILIES who complained about the way a council handled a project to put a mobile phone mast near their homes are today set to receive compensation.

Suffolk Coastal refused the scheme for the 31ft mast in Coronation Drive, Felixstowe – but made the decision just one day too late.

Because the decision was not made within 56 days, it meant Hutchison 3G was granted "deemed permission" and could put up the aerial, even though neither council or residents wanted it.

Six residents, worried about health risks and thousands of pounds being knocked off their homes' values, took a case against Suffolk Coastal to the Ombudsman. His investigation has found the council guilty of maladministration causing injustice.


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The Ombudsman has recommended the council pay £250 compensation to each household, and improves its procedures for dealing with similar mast applications in the future.

Residents were backed in their campaign by ward councillors Dot Paddick, Mike Ninnmey and Harry Dangerfield, who helped co-ordinate a series of protests.

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These included preventing the telecommunications company from putting up the mast by blocking the land with a JCB and other vehicles – which are still there today stopping the work being done.

Mr Ninnmey said: "This great news, absolutely brilliant. It was poor work by the council to let this mast go-ahead by just one day and it needs to be very much more on the ball in future.

"Of course, the mast is still not up – I understand there is a dispute over ownership of the land – and who knows what damage residents might suffer in the future if it does go up."

Dorothy and Lionel Rickett were among those who complained to the Ombudsman. Mrs Rickett said: "We didn't intend to make any money out of this – our concern was the health factor as no-one really knows yet what these rays will do, and to support the other residents.

"One family has two little children and this mast will be right outside their bedroom window – no family would want that risk."

In his report, Ombudsman Tony Redmond said the council, to its credit, acknowledged it was at fault at an early stage but could not resolve the matter through its own complaints procedure and encouraged residents to complain to him.

The application for the mast was submitted on August 8, 2002, but the council told Hutchison 3G the 56 days would end on October 14 – 70 days later.

After permission was refused on October 3, the company pointed out that the 56 days had actually expired on October 2, one day before the decision. It said, rightly, counting had begun from the day it submitted the plans and not from when the council decided to start dealing with it.

Senior Suffolk Coastal officers are now considering the findings and are likely to bring a report to cabinet on what action the council proposes to take.

What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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