Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 100 - 107)



  100. Do you think that at the moment operators really phone up their competitors and say "we are going to have another set of masts in Guildford, do you want to join us?"
  (Mr Birch) I do not think the operators talk to themselves. We have been in the daft position where two regional offices of the same operator have been putting in masts quite close to each other in our district and we have said "why do you not talk to the other bit of your own firm?" I am pretty sure they do not talk to each other.

  101. Do your councils maintain registers of masts?
  (Mr Birch) Yes. In fact, I have brought one to show you. I thought you might ask that question. This is the Guildford Telecommunications Register which shows where all the masts are, when they were permitted, what happened and so on.

  102. When was that drawn up?
  (Mr Birch) This was actually March last year but we have updated it although we have not published it. We can send you an up-to-date one if you want one.

  103. Within your local government sector is this commonplace or would you regard yourselves as the exception?
  (Mr Birch) I think we are probably the leading edge.

  104. You would say that, would you not?
  (Mr Birch) I think a lot of authorities do have them now, I do not know how many.
  (Mr Haslam) We certainly keep a register.
  (Mr Wilbraham) When we phoned around yesterday to a number of councils just to find the figures on prior notification, there were quite a number of authorities who could not tell us because they do not keep records in that way. It is not mandatory.

  105. It does create a problem, surely, where a small mast was there originally and it is assumed that it is okay and overnight another one comes in, it is twice as high and it has got a generating station and what have you beside it. That really is the difficulty. Have you got this? What do you do with it? Do you have someone wandering around Guildford checking that the masts are okay?
  (Mr Birch) No, we do not. What we use it for is when a new application comes in and we will check to see what is in that vicinity. We use a telecoms consultant because we do not have the expertise in terms of cell size and so on. He uses that a lot to identify what is within there, whether there are prospects for mast sharing or whatever.

  106. One last point. You referred a couple of times to work which is being done by the RCA?
  (Mr Haslam) The Radiocommunications Agency.
  (Mr Wilbraham) I believe that they currently do go around and monitor particularly sensitive sites. Our point is, without trivialising it, if there were a lot more little red vans being seen with Radiocommunications Agency people with overalls and electronic—
  (Mr Haslam) Stethoscopes.
  (Mr Wilbraham)—equipment, so the public could see that it is actually happening then I think that would begin to instil in the public confidence that there is an agency just checking that everything is all right.

  107. Mind you, there is the other view, that it would merely serve to raise anxiety, "there must be something wrong or they would not be going around".
  (Mr Wilbraham) It comes down to education to make it clear why it is being done.

  Chairman: It is just one of the problems that we as constituency Members have. The precautionary principle goes a bit further sometimes in people's minds. I do not think we have any further questions, so thank you very much.

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