Yorkshire Dales residents claim 'serious abuse of local democracy' over Government 5G trial

Residents of a remote Yorkshire Dales area selected for a £6m Government trial of 5G technology have spoken of their anger over the amount of consultation before the initiative was launched, claiming there has been a “serious abuse of local democracy”.

North Yorkshire County Council’s Richmond constituency committee heard there was a high level of anxiety among many residents of Coverdale due to the authority’s failure to explain what the Mobile Access North Yorkshire (MANY) pilot project would entail.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 5G testbed and trials initiative aims to bring 4G mobile connectivity and ultra-fast broadband to the area where mobile phone coverage is almost non-existent.

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MANY, a collaboration between the council and Quickline Communications, has said it has held discussions with parish councils and community members, but the committee heard claims many people and some parish councils in the dale had been left in the dark.

Coverdale in the Yorkshire Dales

In a statement to the committee, Harriet Corner, of Coverham, said residents had been “disturbed by the disingenuous behaviour of the authorities”.

She said: “I was shocked to discover there is a plan for three 50m 5G masts, one of which has already been erected at Braidley, again without any knowledge of residents at our end of the dale.”

Mrs Corner highlighted concerns she said were shared by other Yorkshire Dales residents that 5G technology would damage wildlife, humans and livestock with radiation, adding at least one of the masts was next to a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, where hen harriers had nested this year.

She said the safest and most secure way to increase mobile phone coverage would be through fibre broadband connections.

Calling for a briefing for all residents, Mrs Corner said: “The urgency is that the residents of Coverdale remain unaware of these risks. The only information some of them have seen or heard has come from MANY.

"They have had no consultation and clearly have no control over what happens to the infrastructure that may be required. They have no information or detail regarding the nature of the trial.”

The meeting was told the masts did not need planning permission and were at least some were not connected to the 5G trial, but were instead part of a new network for the emergency services.

Councillors said they had heard evidence that 5G masts presented risks, but were also aware of counter-claims that the technology was perfectly safe.

After the meeting, the council’s executive member for access, Coun Don Mackenzie said MANY had not written to every resident as the initiative was only a trial, but there had been widespread media and social media coverage.

He said: “We have made every effort to make people aware this trial was going ahead short of delivering to every single household.”

Coun Mackenzie added there was no evidence that suggests 5G is harmful to health at the sort of frequencies that would be used in Coverdale.

He added: “We had exactly the same fears expressed when we introduced 2G, 3G and 4G technology.”

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