Residents angry at phone mast near homes

RESIDENTS have criticised rugby club representatives for not telling them about plans to put up a temporary communications mast near their homes.

Families in Leeds say they are worried about their children's health and have been told by a local estate agent that property values go down when phone masts go up.

Angry parents living next to Roundhegians Rugby Football Club in Roundhay spent the weekend gathering signatures for a petition, calling for the mobile phone base station to be taken down as soon as possible.

They were surprised to be told that planning permission is not required for a temporary phone mast if it is needed to urgently bridge a gap in coverage.

Jo Hick, an office manager who lives in Chelwood Avenue, said she had put on hold plans to move house because of the "monstrosity" near their properties.

She said: "The health risks associated with these masts are unknown and I would rather not take the risk. There are 23 children living in the immediate area, who will be playing near it all summer."

After speaking to a local estate agent, she postponed putting her house on the market. "It's impossible now. The estate agent said it's not going to sell. He could not put a figure but it would devalue it."

Neighbour Mandy Asghar said parents were very worried about the health implications, as well as the impact on house prices.

"My initial reaction was extreme anxiety. I am about to put my house on the market. I know if I was buying, it would put me off. I am extremely angry."

Her anger is directed at the rugby club for not keeping residents informed of the plans.

"The club did not have the courtesy to talk to us about it. If my kids were small I would be worried about the health risks, which are not proven either way. I have a background in science and we should err on the side of caution. Siting it near homes is ridiculous."

Another resident, Emma Black, a research technician at Leeds University, said the mast went up without any consultation.

"They are allowed to do this under emergency measures, so long as the mast is under 15 metres tall. All they have to do is give notice to a planning officer."

She said there was enough evidence of the dangers of microwaves from masts to be cautious and therefore reduce their proximity to people, particularly children.

She said the agent for the phone company must only show Leeds Council that the mast is urgently needed and then agree that it will only stay for a temporary period.

A club representative has reassured residents that the mast is temporary and will not be there for any longer than six months. If it remains for six months the club will receive 2,500.

Club chairman Stafford Smart has apologised to residents for failing to keep them informed.

He told the Yorkshire Post that the mast was an "emergency, temporary" measure which was in the interests of the wider community to ensure continued network coverage.

He said the payment to the club "is not a huge one".

"The payment is pro-rata, so the 2,500 is for six months. If it stays for two months, it will be two-sixths of that."

The company behind the mast, Ericsson Ltd, has written to residents to reassure them that their health is not at risk from mobile phone base stations.

Corporate affairs manager William Comery, of Ericsson, said: "Since 2000, the health of mobile phone base stations has been extensively considered by our national and other central governments and by national and international health bodies. The findings of these reports should provide everyone with reassurance."

He quoted several reports, including one from 2007 by the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority which said: "The exposure to the general population that results from transmitters is very weak and one would not expect such exposure to produce a health risk."

He said the base station was needed to bridge a coverage gap in the Moortown/Roundhay area.