Kent County Council has opened public consultation over a land deal with EE Limited and Hutchison 3G Ltd to lease part of Westgate’s St Saviours School’s playing field and site a telecoms mast on it.
The request has been lodged despite work having already started, and now halted, after the project to install a 20m monopole disguised as a Cypress tree was given the go-ahead last year by Thanet council, which decided prior approval was not required.
The decision was challenged by residents who said it was not lawful because Thanet council wrongly stated the site is not in the Westgate Conservation Area. However, Thanet council said: “This decision is still valid and correct.”
Residents also wrote to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up to ask him to quash the permission.
Town council objection
This month Westgate Town Council wrote to Thanet council’s planning department to say its previous no comment stance on the installation had changed and the authority now says it is in total objection.
The letter says the initial no comment was ‘based on limited information and without any pre-application/consultation from MBNL.’
The letter adds: “Over the subsequent passage of time the true impact and associated information has become apparent.
“We now wish to add to the record that with our current knowledge, and if full and accurate disclosure had been made the view of Westgate on Sea Town Council is now and should have been one of total Objection upon a full understanding of the local objections and inaccurate drawings.”
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. There was limited response and residents say they were not aware of the plans or any consultation.
A complaint made to Thanet council over its handling of the planning application for the Hawtrey’s Field 5G mast has reached the stage of being sent to the Ombudsman.
A recent 5G mast application for London Road, Ramsgate, outside Christ Church school, has been refused by TDC. In the council’s report on that application TDC raise concerns the applicant (MBNL) hasn’t adequately engaged the local community with refusal for the mast due to it being ‘an overbearing, obtrusive and incongruous form of development within the street scene and locality.”
A campaigner against the mast said: “It is unclear why the same argument for the 5G mast on Hawtrey’s Field, could not be applied. This question has been raised with TDC but no response has been provided as yet.”
The planning documents originally lodged for the mast 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.
Kent County Council has now launched a consultation as the mast request will require the local authority to enter into a lease with the operators granting them rights to site the mast on the school’s playing field.
Because the lease to the operator would be deemed as a disposal of a playing field, KCC needs to ask for a decision from the Secretary of State for Education and is asking for public views before this step is taken.
One resident has questioned why the consultation has now been launched, saying: “KCC, via its leader, appeared adamant that it must settle with MBNL, which leader Roger Gough said he fully supports, and that the it was already decided, in part due to the ‘complexities and risks of the case being determined in favour of MBNL at lands tribunal.
“What has changed? If it was decided, why are we now having an opportunity to comment? Will it make a difference if it is already decided? Is this just a box-ticking exercise by KCC?”
He added: “The Secretary of State for Education has been requested to intervene to refuse consent for KCC to engage in a contract with MBNL (EE and Three) due to concerns raised regarding the loss of land, on education land (playing field) and due to the risk of potential harm to children at the school.
“The latest understanding is that there will be a hearing to determine whether there is a likely possibility of the Lands Tribunal being able to overturn a refusal by the SoS to consent to a Code Agreement between KCC and MBNL.”
Anyone wishing to make written representations to the KCC consultation before the December 30 deadline can do so via https://letstalk.kent.gov.uk/st-saviours-s77