Residents in Westgate have contacted the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, to ask him to revoke a decision which allows a 20ft 5G phone mast to be installed next to St Saviour’s junior school.
Nik Wells and his mum-in-law Del Bentley have taken the action as part of a campaign to stop the installation from going ahead.
The go-ahead was given last year to Mobile Broadand Network Limited (MBNL), EE Limited and Three (H3G) UK Limited to install the 20m high Monopole disguised as a Cypress Tree with 6 antenna apertures & 2 600mm dishes after Thanet council decided prior approval was not required.
But Nik and Del say the decision is not lawful because Thanet council wrongly stated that the site is not in the Westgate Conservation Area.
Nik said: “We challenged TDC on this and suggested that due process was not correctly followed and that the decision of “Prior Approval Not Required” is not lawful and should be revoked under section 97 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
“Thanet council rejected this and claim that it was an “administrative error” that does not affect their decision. We do not agree and have taken this to the Secretary of State, The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, and requested for him to revoke the decision under section 100 of the 1990 Act. This request has been formally acknowledged and we await a decision.”
Residents have launched a petition against the phone mast installation which has been signed by some 630 people online and a further 150 on a paper petition.
In 2018 a similar application was made but due to Kent County Council planning policy at the time, including there being less than 25 years on lease of the cricket field site and due to the precautionary principle regarding safety of telephone masts near schools, KCC quashed the plans.
During lockdown the new application was submitted and the go-ahead given.
Nik said: “There was only one objection raised at the time, which is baffling but may be due to the lockdown and SARS-CoV-2 situation distracting people. I live approximately 100 metres from the planned installation and was totally unaware of it and certainly wasn’t consulted. One of my children attends the school whose playing field is on the site of the mast and until approximately 3 weeks ago, no communication to parents was received.”
Campaigners say they are being backed by councillors including Derek Crow-Brown and Bertie Braidwood and Nik says the headmaster at St Saviour’s, Nick Bonell, is also worried by the plans due to unknown health risks.
Planning documents say the mast, which will be on the Westgate Cricket club field, is 100 metres away from the nearest school but campaigners say the distance is closer to 14 metres.
The petition, which will be sent to Thanet council leader Ash Ashbee, says: “How safe is this for the children from St Saviours C of E Junior School (aged 7 to 11) to be playing alongside this new electromagnetic radiation technology?
“The playing fields are also used by the Westgate Cricket Club juniors each Sunday and during matches. Is it acceptable for them to also be bathed in this electromagnetic smog?”
The 5G application
Planning documents state 5G technology aims to greatly increase data speeds for uses such as near-instant downloads of HD films to connected cars, smart medical devices and smart cities.
The application for Westgate says: “This proposal is required to provide continued mobile coverage to the local area, as the existing MBNL (EE and Three) base station, which is situated at St Peters Church, Archdiocese of Southwark Canterbury Road, Westgate, is due for removal.
“This telecommunications site currently provides network coverage to the surrounding area and the potential loss of this site from the network, will result in a loss of communications and data services locally and a wider disruption to the mobile network, if a replacement site, which replicates the lost coverage, cannot be identified and integrated into the network at the earliest opportunity.
“This operational base-station must be decommissioned in the near future, generating need for a replacement site to avoid a coverage gap in the mobile network.”
Fears have been raised that the electromagnetic radiation used by mobile phone technologies could lead to increased health risks, including developing certain types of cancer.
The World Health Organization says no adverse health effects have been established but has also classified all radio frequency radiation as “possibly carcinogenic”.
However, because 5G technology uses more transmitters than previous versions, these run at lower power levels meaning the level of radiation exposure is said to be lower than previous mast technology.
‘Valid and correct’
A Thanet council spokesperson said: “Within the published report on the application, the site is incorrectly identified as being adjacent to the Westgate Conservation area rather than within it. This would not have changed the determination for this application.
“The phone mast would still have been considered acceptable on the grounds it would not have affected the significance of the Westgate Conservation area and is considered acceptable in terms of its location and appearance.
“We are aware of the request to revoke this decision, however it is our view that this decision is still valid and correct.”