Bronte village split over plans for church spire phone mast

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COUNCILLORS are expected to give their blessing to plans to put communications equipment atop a parish church in a village where the Brontes were born.

A petition with 350 signatures has been sent to Bradford Council objecting to plans to place antennae and a base station in and around the spire at St James’s Church, Thornton.

Forty letters of objection have also been sent to planners.

The parish church expects to receive an annual sum from the communications companies and although the figure has not been revealed it is thought to be between £5,000 and £10,000 a year.

Objectors have raised concerns about the alleged health effects of siting equipment close to homes and have raised objections about perceived damage to the historic character of the village.

Several locals claim the development would adversely affect the Bronte birthplace house, a site of local and regional interest.

Five letters backing the plans have been sent to the planning authority.

Supporters have praised the scheme, saying the equipment will be “discreet”.

Another said: “The technology in Thornton is lagging behind the rest of the city of Bradford and it’s about time the village caught up.”

Supporters say there is no accepted evidence, either from the World Health Organisation nor the Health Protection Agency, that mobile telephone base stations are hazardous to health.

A council report, to be discussed by councillors next Thursday, says the application relates to the installation of six tower-mounted antennae 17.9 metres above the ground.

The report, which urges councillors to agree the plans, states that the equipment would not be prominent or intrusive.

“The telecommunication equipment has been carefully positioned to the east and west elevations to sit within recessed aprons beneath the louvred openings to the bell tower, whilst on the north side they are face fixed at high level close to pilasters and beneath the machicolations (projecting gallery).

“The east and west installations are recessed into the reveals of the masonry and will be well integrated.”

The equipment will be painted in a colour to blend them to the background stone colour.

It will not be intrusive and therefore will not compromise the listed church, the report says.

The closest house is around 14 metres away but the council has no health concerns.

The report concludes that the design and impact of the proposed equipment has been assessed and “will not detract significantly from the character of the existing street scene or the listed church building.”

The priest-in-charge, the Reverend Andy Greiff, said the equipment would be hidden away in the redundant bell tower.

He would not comment on the amount of money being offered by the companies behind the plans.

But the sum is believed to be somewhere between £5,000 and £10,000 a year.

“It takes a lot of money to keep a church of this size going,” he said. “The money will go a little way to helping us.”

Rev Greiff, his wife and two children live in the neighbouring vicarage and he is confident there are no real concerns about any effect on health.

The parish church distributed a newsletter to villagers to explain the stance of the church.

The newsletter said: “There are many base stations in Bradford but there are none in Thornton, except the high powered police mast at Hill Top. The nearest is on top of the sports centre at Thornton Grammar School, but masts are placed all over. There are masts on top of the maternity unit at Bradford Royal Infirmary, on churches, factories, etc.

“It is only a matter of time before one appears in our village whether it is discreetly housed in the spire or not.”