Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140
TUESDAY 13 MARCH 2001
140. Do all of you have registers?
(Mr Jones) Like Mr Joyce was saying, we have a register
which gives details of the planning applications which have been
permitted for masts. What we do not have is a register for masts
or base stations which did not need permission, because we would
not necessarily know about those. We have just a register of planning
permissions, or applications, should I say.
(Councillor Bailey) All local authorities will have
a register or database of applications for masts which are already
constructed. It is a question of future ones and other information
about them, particularly emissions, is it not? We would all welcome
a national database on that. As far as I know the industry are
prepared to cooperate in making that available. I think that would
(Councillor House) The real issue here is establishing
that database in the public domain so that there can be more confidence
developed across the range of issues involved. Getting confidence
into the system is a bit like the planning framework at the moment.
There are a lot of missing gaps.
141. When you talk about emissions, do you also
mean the angle that the greatest beam of emission would travel
(Councillor Bailey) Yes.
142. You are talking about emissions but we
know that there are different levels of emissions depending on
the time of day. If you are talking about peak time for mobile
telephony, the emissions are very much higher than they are perhaps
in the middle of the day when there is not so much use. You are
speaking as though there is some absolute: you have a mast there
and it is going to emit so much in terms of emission. The more
masts you have, ultimately, the fewer emissions each will emit
because there will be more of them and they will be able to share
the responsibility, so to speak. Is that concept getting across
in the consultations that you are having with the public?
(Councillor House) It is not getting across at the
moment. I have been interested in discussing some of these issues
with telecoms operators in other parts of Europe and there are
quite clearly different kinds of debates in different parts of
Europe at the moment about these issues. We have a long way to
go in educating and informing our communities about real issues
related to masts, mobile phones, emissions, health risks or not
health risks. Until we can start getting some clarity in policy
terms, we are not going to begin that debate. That will remain
as a critical gap. Yes, there are lots of issues around information
and education which are part of the discussion.
143. If we go from the present system to a new
system of planning permission having to be obtained and consultation,
do you think what is going to happen is that people's expectations
are going to be raised enormously and they will be dashed as they
realise that there are still no hard and fast answers on this,
for the very reasons we have been discussing?
(Councillor House) We are talking about trying to
resolve a series of problems. Some are fairly simple to resolve.
Bringing this type of development into the planning system in
a more conventional sense is part of making that jigsaw fit together.
Establishing clear guidelines, publishing and agreeing what prior
warning arrangements there are, is the next part of our jigsaw.
Publishing a national database in a form in which everyone can
access it is part of that jigsaw. We are talking about a staged
process. Clearly, we are not going to suddenly expect all our
local communities to be jumping up and saying, "Yes, please,
we would like an extra phone mast." We are trying to get
clarity of the process so that we can understand the systems of
operation and some of the underlying health issues, for example.
144. You think the government is going to deliver
(Councillor House) That is for the government. We
want the government to publish revised guidelines quickly to resolve
some of those difficulties as part of the process.
(Councillor Bailey) There are public exposure guidelines.
The Stewart Report recommends that they should be adhered to.
Provided that is done, that at least gets through that part of
the hurdle. It makes it all transparent and obvious. Allaying
public concern afterwards is another matter. At the moment, we
are in a position where we do not know that that is happening.
We are not able to tell people that is happening and people naturally
will be alarmed. It is like emissions of noxious substances or
fuels from other plants. There are guidelines and there are emission
levels. I cannot see a fundamental difference here.
(Mr Joyce) Clearly the system at the moment does not
allow adequate participation by the public. That creates its own
problems in terms of the openness and transparency of decision
making and faith in the system, whether it is local authorities
or operators. The more opportunity there is for residents and
others to participate, the better, and the more mature is the
(Mr Jones) The situation we now have with recent appeal
decisions which have given credibility to the health risk argument
is that the situation is more difficult for us and some clarity
on that issue would be very much welcomed by all local authorities.
145. When we interviewed Sir William Stewart
this morning and in his report there was discussion about the
emphasis in the report on schools as base stations. That seems
to be what a lot of the groups are worried about. The mast in
the United Kingdom started off as one fighting about schools.
Given that other people are adding other areas where there are
lots of people, like hospitals, parks and areas where there are
high density populations, do you need guidance in negotiating
with operators on that or would this all come under PPG8 once
it is issued? Do you need particular guidance on schools and other
areas where a lot of people congregate?
(Mr Joyce) On that issue, the reference is to sensitive
sites. In the draft guidance, it does not go as far as examining
that any further, other than to mention schools. It would be helpful
to clarify what is meant by "sensitive sites" other
than schools so that local authorities can take that into account
in terms of either drawing up policies through development plans
or dealing with planning applications per se.
146. What about this deal which Hertfordshire
County Council did with Orange about the 100 lamp posts? Were
you aware of that being offered? They have offered 100 street
lighting columns for the installation of low power boosters to
improve transmission facilities. Is something like that possible
between operators and local councils?
(Councillor House) Giving publicity to initiatives
like that can only be helpful. It shows cooperation between the
industry and local government is already happening in some places.
Yes. Why not?
147. Have you had any dialogue with the Highways
Agency, because they do not seem to be happy about masts near
roads, although presumably that is where many might be located
(Mr Jones) We have not had any discussions with them
but we take advice from our own internal engineers on these sorts
of matters, as to whether they would form a highway risk. In many
instances, basing masts on highway verges rather than in residential
areas, for example, would be a benefit rather than a disbenefit.
(Mr Joyce) The Highways Agency are taking the same
responsible attitude as any other land owner. There should not
be a different approach. It is the same issue about the best solution
in terms of an environmental point of view.
148. On the schools issue, what is the attitude
of the four councils represented today? Do any of your schools
have masts on them?
(Mr Joyce) Yes.
(Councillor Bailey) Yes, but there is controversy
on others. The Stewart Report says that the beam of greatest intensity
should not fall onto school properties because of the concentration
of young children. That is information that we do not necessarily
have at the moment. Certainly in my authority some schools have
(Councillor House) My authority is not a local education
authority but the local education authority, Hampshire County
Council, has I understand taken the view that it may well permit
masts on school sites.
(Mr Jones) There were a number of them in the early
days who saw this as a revenue gaining exercise, but the balance
has shifted significantly over the past two or three years to
a situation where schools are not entertaining masts any more.
(Mr Joyce) We would like more publicity of the Radio
Communications Agency's offer to carry out surveys of masts. That
has not been well publicised, although it is available on their
website. In the explanatory text, the Radio Communications Agency
do say that they will publish, after they carry out a number of
surveys, their initial findings to see if there are different
trends. That information would be very helpful to local authorities
and to schools and local people.
(Councillor House) To go back to the point that Mr
Laxton was making about organisations and people putting their
heads above parapets, schools are not going to be the first in
the queue to put their heads above the parapet on an issue like
this, when there is a vacuum of information. If there could be
more clarity in terms of published guidelines and acceptance of
processes, I suspect we would then be more likely to see schools,
along with other organisations, coming forward where their sites
are most appropriate. The appropriateness of sites has to be one
of the key issues here, but it is not going to happen unless the
policy vacuum is filled.
(Councillor Bailey) As I understand it, the beam of
greatest intensity is at some distance from the mast. Indeed a
beam of any intensity is at some distance from the mast. It is
a question of where that beam falls in relation to the schools
or other sensitive sites that is the point that Stewart illustrates,
rather than the location of the mast itself. Where there is public
concern about having it on school premises, this is not likely
to be allayed at the moment and may never be in the case of children
obviously, but again this is one of the points where some further
thought and guidance needs to be developed.
149. If you have computers in schools, you probably
expose kids to even more risks.
(Councillor House) Yes, and the school children are
likely to be using mobile phones whether we like it or not when
they exit the school gates.
150. Thank you very much. It has been very helpful.
If we have any points that we would like to follow up with you,
we will be in touch with you but thank you very much for your
(Councillor House) When do you expect to publish your
Chairman: Before the general election.