Phone firms face ban from tops of town’s historic sites

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Mobile phone masts have been banned from being built on top of some of Harrogate’s most historic buildings.

Harrogate Borough Council cabinet members have agreed not to lease any of its land or property, which includes the Royal Hall, to phone companies.

Councillors decided to uphold a notice of motion from 2000, which first set out the blanket ban, after agreeing to review the policy at a meeting on Wednesday.

The notice sets out public concerns over the effects of radiation levels, however Councillor Don Mackenzie, the leader of Harrogate Council, said this was no longer an issue.

“In the last 11 years since that decision was taken, public perception about health issues has been allayed and people are less concerned about the effect on the brain,” he said.

“We are more concerned about the practical issues, such as if you allow a phone company to put a mast on the property and you decide you want to alter it then it’s very complicated to get rid of that phone equipment. This is a risk that has already been identified at the Harrogate International Centre, where informal deals were agreed with phone companies in the 1990s.”

Coun Mackenzie said there also was no longer such a high demand from phone companies to build antennae on top of buildings as they were now sharing masts.

However earlier this year the Yorkshire Post revealed plans by WFS Telecom to build up to 14 mobile phone masts across Harrogate and Knaresborough, sparking outrage from residents.

“There’s still a demand but it’s nowhere near as high as it has been,” said Coun Mackenzie. “However there has been a number of these applications put in, These have mainly been at street level and there have been a couple at St Wilfrid’s Church, on the Duchy estate, but most of these have been thrown out.

“Most people recognise that there are areas of Harrogate where reception isn’t very good and that phone companies need to erect antennae. But if they are on tall buildings they need to be hidden away if possible, especially if there are conservation issues like with St Wilfrid’s, and if they are on foot paths they need to make sure they aren’t close to homes or schools.”

Coun Mackenzie said he expected the ban to last at least 10 years.