Mast hysteria:Planning law: what are valid objections?

In the UK, only phone masts more than 15-m high require full planning permission; anything shorter can be erected anywhere with just local-authority approval. Nevertheless, it is required that the public be consulted. The government has stipulated that ‘it should not be necessary for a Local planning Authority . . . to consider health effects’. The upshot of this is that ‘planning committees are not allowed to use adverse health effects as a ground for refusing applications’, says solicitor John Hunt, a specialist in mobile-phone planning law.

When you and other residents object to phone masts, you must mainly do so on environmental grounds (it will block pavements and ruin the neighbourhood). However, in 2001, some planning inspectors accepted sufficient ‘public fear of possible health effects’ as grounds for rejection, says Hunt, ‘whether or not that fear is based in objectively proven scientific evidence’. However, the recent Yorkshire case (see main text, p 1) may have overturned this ruling.

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