Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
TUESDAY 13 MARCH 2001
60. I believe that four or five of us around
this table could give you constituency cases which started years
ago which might have been as a consequence of a bending of the
rules or an oversight in relation to the rules. A local authority
is then faced with the problem of whether they should take on
an important multinational telecommunications company and fight
with them through all the courts of the land to get something
changed, because the company would doubtless be looking for some
kind of compensation in due course. I will not recite the details
but suffice it to say that I know somebody who got a replacement
mast which was rather more intrusive and offensive than the one
he had previously. For the local authority to take on the offending
company would probably involve them in spending half their annual
budget, once the legal fees had been paid. How do we deal with
something like that?
(Mr Meyer) You probably know why the Tandridge case
was brought by Mr Al-Fayed. He did it to expose the fact that
nobody had any money to take on a planning application by a network
operator close to somebody's home, not his home. It was 80 metres
from a home with three small children. He did it because he thought
at the time that somebody ought to have the courage to try and
show what the problem was. He got it exposed. The planning process
was flawed but he did not win because the judge probably knew
who he was, I think, but, as may be, the judge refused to exercise
his discretion. But that is not the point. The point is that of
course it is difficult for a planning authority but these two
decisions which I do not know if you have got, but I really think
that they make extremely interesting reading because they are
so different from planning inspectors' appeals decisions which
we have all read time and time again but could never understand
because they always seem to reverse the local planning authority's
refusal. These ones do not do that and they explain why. It is
the explanation why which is interesting. Can I hand them in?
Chairman: We will take them but I think we have
got one of them.
(Mr Meyer) They are very interesting. I think you
have to use the planning procedures to get masts on the right
site, perhaps with mast sharing as required but that very rarely
happens. You have to look at different considerations.
61. Does your organisation look into other technical
facilities? Some of us were in Scandinavia recently and saw the
next stage, which could be something the size of an A3 sheet.
(Mr Meyer) Yes, I am meant to understand some of these
things but you have to understand that I am a lawyer; I am not
a scientist. But if you have done it for four years, if you are
any good, you have learned a bit of it. There is no doubt that
there are many different ways of doing it but you have got to
have changes in the planning rules here to achieve that. That
is what was, on 11th May, one of the main Stewart recommendations.
The Government said that they were minded to accept it. The consultation
went out. Clearly, in part of PPG8 as revised, paragraph 78 probably
was incorrect and it reflected totally the Minister's letter of
29th June, which clearly is not correct unless you interpret it
in accordance with the correction. It is all very difficult but
because it is difficult, it does not means that you cannot get
it right for the future. I think your point, sir, as to how deal
with it backwards, in retrospect, I think it is probably impossible
But you can make a further roll-out, the 3G roll-out, carried
out in a less unacceptable way, perhaps.
62. On the 3G roll-out, would you condemn any
local authority that had a blanket refusal on any more masts permission,
for example, because that is certainly inconsistent with being
able to roll out 3G?
(Mr Meyer) I have never been very much in favour of
banning anything. I think you have got to look at each case properly
and fairly. A large part of some county councils taking decisions
is because they felt very frustrated that things happen under
GPDO and they go through on prior approval notification. There
is very little control and everybody has been effectively disenfranchised.
When the Telecommunications Act 1984 set it all in train, we were
living in a rather different world. I think people expect now
to have some involvement in their lives and their children's lives.
There is no doubt that the 200 groups that Mast Action UK represent
are scared for their children. Whether they are rightly scared
is anybody's guess. But you will only find that out in 10 years
63. Have you spent any time addressing the issue
of the Tetra?
(Mr Meyer) I am not qualified to do so but it sounds
as though it is far worse.
64. That would be my submission on the basis
of the evidence. It is far worse and it is interesting that you
have not really got to grips with that one yet?
(Mr Meyer) I think that nobody in the public at large
understands what Tetra is. It is relating to emergency services.
It was very interesting to note that, I think, two weeks ago it
was referred to DERA to find out whether it was safe because the
police are so scared of what its effects might be. It sounds again
as though perhaps somebody got it wrong
65. Can I ask you about this problem of retrospection
because in some ways, the most worrying masts are the ones that
we already have. Do you campaign against existing masts; namely,
those in relation to which you now realise something should have
been done? Have you had any success?
(Ms Mathew) Yes, several of our groups have got existing
masts. They are not all new planning applications. We have had
some success where the group concerned and the operator have managed
to find another site and actually move the mast. The three that
I can think of off the top of my head were all schools and they
were moved away from schools. But it still remains a huge problem
and the general public that have these masts either in a school
or at the bottom of their garden are extremely concerned and the
stress and anxiety that we hear daily in telephone calls from
people is absolutely dreadful. Those people are living in that
situation and they do not see the Government taking any action
at all to help them out of this situation. There is quite a lot
now in the planning system and masts are now being turned down
but that does not help the people who have them already.
(Mr Meyer) There may, possibly, be one or two cases
which are in the pipeline to test out whether Article 8 does in
fact give you rights about an existing mast.
66. Thank you very much for coming this morning.
If we need any additional information from you, we will be in
touch. Thank you.