Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Mast Action UK

  1.  Mast Action UK was formed in autumn 2000 and held its Launch Meeting on 13 December 2000 at Portcullis House at the invitation of Mrs Marion Roe MP. More than 250 people were in attendance.

  2.  Since its Launch, Mast Action UK has achieved more than 100 paid up Members comprising Groups of Children's Parents or Local Residents Groups across England and Wales and some from other parts of the United Kingdom and in addition, provides help for more than 100 other Groups or Individuals who are not presently Members.

  3.  Mast Action UK's main purpose for the future is to avoid confrontation with the Mobile Phone Industry by achieving understanding that the main concerns relate to the insensitive siting and location of Masts and Base Stations with regard to.

    (1)  Local Schools where Masts are either sited on School Buildings or grounds close to them without any consultation with the Children's Parents; and

    (2)  Residential Areas where Masts are often placed insensitively close to permanently occupied Local Residents' homes.

  It is not part of Mast Action UK's approach to object to Masts and Base Stations as being ugly on aesthetic Grounds of appearance as such, or to proper 3G Network Roll Out.

  4.  Mast Action UK was formed out of total frustration at the outcomes of the Planning Process and its perceived failure to protect, either Children in Schools or Local Residents in their permanently occupied Homes.

  The only protection until the Report of the Stewart Committee (IEGMP) was to be found in the two Court of Appeal Judgements in the Newport case 1998 and the Tandridge Case 1999 where the Courts found that genuine Public concern was a Material Planning Consideration and that it was for the Local Planning Authority to place such weight as it thought fit on such concerns.

  However, that appeared to have changed once the main Stewart Report Recommendations were announced and the Government stated that it was minded in principle to accept the Recommendations subject to normal consultation on the Planning Application Recommendation.

  5.  Those Main Stewart Recommendations concerned:

    (1)  Full Planning for all Masts and Base Stations. Paragraph 1.36.

    (2)  The adoption of the Precautionary Approach until more robust research with the relevant issues had been carried out. Paragraphs 1.20 and 1.21.

    (3)  Main Beams of the Greatest Intensity not to fall on School Grounds and Buildings without the Schools and Parents consent. Paragraph 1.42.

    (4)  Children to be discouraged in their use of Mobile Phones. Paragraph 1.53.

    (5)  Warnings as to the Dangers of Driving whilst using a Mobile Phone—Paragraph 1.22.

    (6)  A substantial Research Programme should operate under the aegis of a demonstrably Independent Panel. Paragraph 1.58.

  6.  The above were the Main Recommendations, however the much quoted finding that:

    "The balance of evidence to date suggests that exposures to RF Radiation below NRPB and ICNIRP Guidelines do not cause Adverse Health Effects to the General Population."

was contained in Paragraph 1.17 of the Main Conclusions.

However in the subsequent Paragraph 1.33 of the following sentence was added after repeating the Paragraph 1.17 finding:

    "However, there can be indirect Adverse Effects on their well-being in some cases".

  However, at the end of Paragraph 1.19 the Report stated:

    "We conclude therefore that it is not possible at present to say that exposure to RF Radiation, even at levels below National Guidelines is totally without potential Adverse Health Effects, and that gaps in knowledge are sufficient to justify a Precautionary Approach".

  Paragraph 1.20 then recommended:

    "In the light of the above considerations (paragraph 1.18 and 1.19) we recommend that a Precautionary Approach to the use of Mobile Phone Technologies be adopted until much more detailed and scientifically robust information becomes available.".

  7.  Previously on 2 February 2000 the European Commission's Communication on the Precautionary Principle stated in its Definition Section:

    "Where the science is inconclusive or incomplete the Precautionary Approach should be maintained."

  The Department of Health at its LINK Programme on Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme Workshop on 9 February 2001 sought Applications for Collaborative Research Project Grants to investigate possible non-thermal RF Radiation Effects—since Thermal Effects were not now the main concern—in the absence of any published Studies as to the possible Biological Effects on human beings from RF Radiation exposure at very low levels over Protracted Exposure Periods.

  8.  Mast Action UK represents the genuine concerns of the Groups of Local Parents or Residents who fear that there may well be Biological Effects causing Adverse Learning Deficits in young children at schools and other effects on people living in their homes in too close proximity to the emissions from Antennae or Dishes on Masts.

  There was encouragement that Stewart had at last identified the problem areas where the current Research into possibly Relevant Issues was absent. The £7.3 million joint Government/Industry Research Fund should, over the next three years, enable some of these possibilities to be independently investigated further.

  However, until those findings are published, it is believed that a proper Precautionary Approach needs to be in force.

  The advent of the Human Rights Act 1998 which came into effect in England and Wales on 2 October 2000 has provided some additional legal protections to support the required Precautionary Approach and also to ensure that proceedings before Local Planning Authorities are fair, impartial and independent as required by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

  The combined effect of Article 6 and the two Court of Appeal Judgements in the Newport and Tandridge cases mean that Local Authorities can entertain objections from the public at large on any grounds.

  That means that it is open to Local Planning Authorities to consider objections from the public expressing their genuinely held concerns, both generally and also with regard to possible Adverse Health Effects. This is the meaning of both the Court of Appeal Judgements and of Article 6.

  Accordingly, it is not correct for the Planning Minister providing guidance to all Council Leaders in his letter dated 29th June 2000 to state:

    "That it should not be necessary for a Planning Authority in processing an application to consider the Health Effects further. Most existing Base Stations already meet those guidelines and we expect all new Base Stations to do so."

without also making it abundantly clear that that was merely an expression of the Government's view, which Local Planning Authorities should consider when considering what weight they should give to Local Public concern objections.

  Unfortunately, most Local Planning Authorities acting on the advice of their Planning Officers take the view that the letter dated 29 June 2000 was a Directive from the DETR which has to be followed and which means that genuine public fears and concerns on possible Adverse Health Effects cannot be considered.

  However, in a letter dated 8 January 2001, the DETR have explained to Mast Action UK that:

    "The letter clearly stated that health considerations and public concern can in principle be material considerations in determining applications for Planning Permission and Prior Approval"

  It also said that it is for the Decision Maker (usually the Local Planning Authority) to determine what weight to attach to such considerations in a particular case. It is the governments's view that if a proposed Development meets the ICNIRP Guidelines (as recommended by Stewart on a precautionary basis) it should not be necessary for a Planning Authority in processing an application to consider Health Effects further. This view was also stated in our draft PPG8 which was circulated for consultation on 31 July 2000.

  Unfortunately, whilst that letter dated 8 January 2001 exists, it has not been circulated as a follow up to All Council Leaders to ensure that their interpretation of the 29 June 2000 is not erroneous.

  10.  However, recently two Planning Inspectorate Appeal Decisions issued in February 2001 in cases in Stanmore, Middlesex and South Ockendon in Essex have upheld Local Planning Authority Decisions to refuse consent with regard to Prior Approval Notifications for Masts under 15 metres in height and made it clear that is necessary to balance the need of the Network Operator against the harm to the Local Community. In addition, the Decisions have made it clear that there is the need to consider possible alternative sites or ways of achieving the Network Operators' needs.

  11.  Article 8 of the Human Rights Act makes it clear that the right to respect for private and family life and the home can be interfered with or violated in the Public interest if it is "necessary". Section 6 of the Act imposes on the Public Authority—including Local Planning Authorities —a positive requirement to do nothing which is incompatible with a Convention Right.

  Almost certainly this means that for the future Local Planning Authorities will have to be much more pro-active themselves in considering whether there are not other locations or sites, or other technical means of achieving the Network Operators' requirements but without "unnecessarily" adversely effecting Article 8 Rights.

  12.  At the recent Network Communications Two Day Mobile Phone Conference on 14 and 15 February 2001, there were Presentations from various Representatives of the Industry dealing with a number of aspects of ways to achieve 3G Network Roll Out. These Presentations included more than one on the possibilities for the future of both Mast and Site Sharing as the necessary way ahead to achieve the Roll Out but without an over proliferation of masts.

  There were interesting Presentations from one of the major Network Operators regarding Roll Out in Switzerland and also Roll Out in Norway—both being countries with geographical features which are important and relatively low density populations.

  In Switzerland, the Roll-Out after consultation with Local Communities generally was based in tall buildings and where these didn't exist, on Modern Masts generally between 25 metres and 45 metres in height, which provided the essential coverage over a large area and generally above most buildings. In Norway they tended to use existing buildings but without placing the Antenna and Dishes on top of the buildings, which was disfiguring, but using the building as the frame to which the various Antennae or Dishes could be attached but in a way where they hardly showed at all. Also, in certain situations, the Antennae were placed within the building.

  13.  Here, on the other hand, as a result of the General Permitted Development Order 1995 (GPDO) the tendancy was to have Masts of 15 metres or less because that avoided having to go through the full Planning process and generally avoided the Local Communities having any say in the process at all.

  In addition, due to the density of the traffic, a number of Prior Approval Notifications were being submitted for Lamp Post Masts on pavements outside people's residences. The two Planning Appeals referred to above in Paragraph 10 relate to such proposals.

  Technically, it is understood that there are many ways of achieveing the necessary coverage, provided the need can be demonstrated and that it is appreciated now that Local Home Occupiers have rights under Article 8 not to have the value of their home diminished unless it can be demonstrated in the Public Interest that this was "necessary". In the light of the technological possibilities, as demonstrated abroad, it seems probable that it would be difficult to show that such methods of coverage are indeed necessary.

  14.  It has to be appreciated that in addition to Local Parents' and Local Groups of Residents', genuine concerns as to the possible Adverse Health Effects, they are also extremely concerned at the Adverse Effect which arises when a Mast is insensitively placed, either outside the front or at the end of the back garden of their homes. It often means that a negative equity position can instantly arise or the home becomes virtually unsaleable because there are choices of other homes without Masts. These are real concerns relating to the value of their main possession, their home for which Article 8 and Article 1 of the First Protocol to the Convention provide some rights.

  15.  As expressed at the beginning of this Evidence Memorandum, Mast Action UK and the many Groups it represents, are not against proper Network Roll Out in England and Wales, but they are against Network Roll Out in ways which are not necessary and which can be achieved by different methods which do not possibly adversely effect their children at their schools and also their homes.

  There is some published evidence relating to learning deficits in children exposed to RF Radiation in Latvia and some evidence relating to Adverse Health Effects concerning the Local Population in Berne, Switzerland. Both of these Studies are causes for concern until the further robust Scientific Research into possible Biological Effects has published its outcomes in 2004. Accordingly, it is believed that it is essential that the Precautionary Approach is properly maintained.

  16.  Mast Action UK, has over the last two months, been in helpful discussions with the Federation of Electronic Industries with a view to trying to reach some form of sensible, modern approach enabling 3G Roll Out but without unnecessarily Adversely Effecting the rights of Local Residents and of Parents concerning their children's education.

  It is believed that the two recent Planning Inspectors Appeal Decisions upholding the Local Planning Authorities' rejection of Prior Approval Notifications, notwithstanding the Planning Minister's Guidance in his 29 June 2000 letter, are perhaps signs that at last the legal requirements are being fairly considered and the necessary balancing exercise carried out in a way which does not "unnecessarily" adversely effect people's Article 8 Rights.

  In the South Ockendon February 2001 Appeal Decision, the Inspector stated at end of Paragraph 30:

    "If, for commercial reasons, the Appellant wishes to encourage or facilitate greater use of its product locally, then alternative ways of providing the infrastructure should be examined.".

28 February 2001


  1.  This Paper has been prepared by Halsey Meyer Higgins Solicitors acting on behalf of currently, more than 20 groups or individuals and on behalf of the various groups previously represented in making submissions and giving evidence to the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phone Technology (IEGMP) Chaired by Sir William Stewart.

  2.  Counsel's Opinion from and Expert Junior Planning Counsel was obtained in a long written Opinion dated 18 October 2000. In that Opinion Counsel in Paragraph 36 has stated as follows:

    "(1)  First, it is to be noted that local authorities are to have regard to the Stewart Group's report, paragraph 78 draft Guidance. If that remains, it must mean that the whole report is material. Any refusal to do so would arguably give rise to a ground of challenge.

    (2)  Secondly, Stewart does suggest regard should be had in indirect effects on well-being (paragraph 1.33). Any authority which wholly disregarded them, as opposed to giving them little weight would err.

    (3)  Thirdly, as set out above (Opinion, paragraph 34), there are arguably three areas in respect of which the Government whilst accepting the Stewart report has not in fact implemented the proposals, ie beams falling on schools, houses etc; consent from parents to siting on schools and taking into account public views.

    (4)  Fourthly, there is the suggestion in the Stewart report that meeting the guidelines is not good enough, see paragraph 32(v) above. The decision maker should be looking to do something more.

    (5)  Fifthly, tied in with (4), there is an argument that local authorities should consider a policy of "prudent avoidance"—which given the adoption of a precautionary approach is arguably well justified ie are there alternative locations which are less sensitive, can power be limited to actual operational requirements with, perhaps, a need to justify any increase. Again any representation to an authority could make these points and if they were taken into account—all well and good, if not—a potential ground of challenge."

  3.  However, in addition to the above quotations, whilst Counsel has advised that on health risks alone the Human Rights Act 1988 Article 8 and First Protocol Article I do not provide substantial additional assistance, he has confirmed the view that where "insensitive siting" of Masts and Base Stations continues to take place AND has an adverse affect on a person's main possession there may well be grounds to seek compensation where less damaging alternative sites exist which are less "Stewart Insensitive".

  In such instances it will not only be the Public Authority but also the Landowner and Network operator who may be at risk for damages or compensation, particularly where a negative equity position come about due to the Grant of Planning Consent for a Mast and Base Station permitted "unnecessarily too close" to existing houses or property.

  4.  It would appear that the provisions of Article 6 of the Human Rights Act may well for the future require a fairer and more proper hearing by the Local Planning Committee of objections—with far less reliance upon a summary of objections being made in the Planning Officer's Report on the Application to the Planning Committee, coupled with the Planning Officer's Recommendation.

  5.  It is probably in this area that in "Modernising Planning" it will be necessary to change in some respects radically planning practices and procedures which have existed for many years without any capability of challenge. Now that position may, or will have to change.

  6.  Accordingly, the unfortunate letter issued by the Planning Minister Nick Raynsford to all Council Leaders on 29th June 2000 should not now be slavishly followed within this Consultation and particularly as to the proposed content of the suggested Revised Policy Planning Guidance Circular PPG8.

  That letter from the Minister overlooked taking into consideration the main Stewart Recommendations, the existence of the two recent Court of Appeal Decisions in the Newport case and subsequently in the Tandridge case, now reported at (2000) JPL 604. In addition, it overlooked the advent of Article 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 which became part of the Laws of England and Wales on 2 October 2000, with access directly to the English Courts under the Act.

  7.  It is suggested that the revised PPG8 in its paragraphs 63-81 needs a substantial rethink to ensure both that the Guidance conforms with the law and that it is consistent with the Main Stewart Recommendations, which the Government stated on 11 May 2000 that "it had decided to accept the main Recommendations subject to the necessary Planning Consultation".

  Planning Counsel has stated that much of what is contained in the Draft PPG8—from paragraph 63 onwards—appears to be inconsistent with the Stewart Recommendations and the Government's 11 May 2000 Statement accepting the Main Recommendations.

    "(b)  It is to be noted that at paragraph 72, 4th bullet point the Government accept the conclusion as to schools and beams of greatest intensity.

    (c)  It gives guidance as to health matters and public perception in paragraphs 77-81.

    (d)  The precautionary approach is adopted but is made clear that no further precautionary measures should be taken, see paragraph 81.

    (e)  Paragraph 77 makes it clear that matters are still ultimately for the Courts and the decision maker. There is an express reference to the Newport case in the footnotes.

    (f)  Paragraph 78 advises authorities to have regard to the Stewart report. It then suggests that if lower international guidelines are met it should not be necessary to consider health effects further. As noted above the Stewart report goes considerably further than that.".

  Counsel has also specifically drawn attention to the following quotations in Part 8 of the Consultation Paper, which included the following vital paragraphs:

      "(i)  As to beams of greatest intensity:

      7.  The Stewart Group recommended, in relation to macrocell base stations sited within school grounds, that the beam of greatest intensity should not fall on any part of the school grounds or buildings without agreement from the school and parents. Similar considerations should apply to macrocell base stations sited near to school grounds (paragraph 1.42). Where parents and/or schools wish to know whether the beam of intensity falls on school grounds or buildings, the school should contact the base station's operator. The operators have agreed to provide schools with information on the level of intensity of radio frequency radiation. This should include an explanation of the way in which the intensity of the radiation falls off with distance from the antenna. If there is a major concern from the school or parents, they could ask the network operator to adjust the antenna.

    It does not appear to me that this meets the requirement as set out in this report.

      (ii)  As to siting of base stations and level of output:

      8.  The Stewart Group recommend that in making decisions about the siting of base stations, planning authorities should have the power to ensure that the RF fields to which the public will be exposed will be kept to the lowest practical levels that will be commensurate with the telecommunications system operating effectively (paragraph 1.43). The Government would expect an efficient mobile network operator to ensure that this recommendation is met already. As our draft planning guidance makes clear, in submitting a planning application an operator should provide the Local Planning Authority with a statement that the proposed development will meet ICNIRP guidelines. Providing this assurance is given, it should not be necessary for a planning authority, in processing an application, to consider the level of the radio frequency field to which the public will be exposed.

      Again, it does not seem that Stewart's view is being accepted. It appears to me that there is muddled thinking in equating lowest effective operational levels with merely operating within the guidelines, although the two may coincide. It may be possible to operate at a lower level than the guidelines and Stewart has suggested that this should be undertaken.

      (iii)  As to consultation:

      12.  As regards siting, the Government's view is that the objectives are met by the planning process. When considering applications for new development local planning authorities consult local people and take their views into account in making decisions. Where an authority refuses an application the developer can appeal to the Secretary of State. Pre-application discussions with authorities and with local people also have an important part to play, providing opportunities to explore alternative approaches to the siting and appearance of masts.

  8.  All the above issues are such, that unless sensibly amended they are unlikely to enable, based upon the Revised PPG8, Planning Authorities to consider fairly and reasonably objections so that the Objectors, or in many cases a body of Objectors, receive the necessary Fair Hearing as required under Article 6 of the Human Rights Act for a Hearing before a Public Authority—in this case a Local Planning Committee.

  As presently drafted, the revised PPG8 is in a number of respects deficient in Law.

  In particular, in paragraph 78 (page 36) line two the following proviso should be inserted after the words "effects further":

    "Provided also that the authority takes into account in its considerations the following statement included in the Stewart Report (paragraph 1.5) also, some people's well-being may be adversely affected by the environmental impact of Mobile Phone Base Stations sited near their homes, schools or other buildings, as well as by their fear of perceived direct effects.".

  9.  The answers to Questions 1 to 10 are attached written in the light of this Paper and of Planning Counsel's Advice.


Question 1

  The existing arrangements do not work and cause great concern and disquiet. All Mast Applications regardless of height should require proper consideration of a Full Planning Application to the Local Planning Authority.

Question 2


Question 3

  Yes. All Ground Based Masts and Base Stations should require Full Planning Applications and Approval.

Question 4

  (1)  No. It should also require a Full Planning Application.

  (2)  In both instances any altered or replaced Mast should nowadays require a Full Planning Application.

Question 5

  Yes. The same Full Planning Application requirement should apply.

Question 6

  Probably No.

Question 7


Question 8

  The Planning Regulations and Guidance Circulars need to conform to the existing Laws of England and Wales as now added to by the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Question 9

  Yes. Stewart Recommended that All Masts or installations should require Planning Consent.

Question 10

  Yes. The Revised PPG8 and its "Guidance" must conform to, and not contravene the decisions of the Court of Appeal, and now the requirements of Articles 6 and 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998.

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