Littlehampton: Parents Against TETRA
We are concerned about the health risks, the costs, and the capacity of TETRA to provide effective police communications.
Littlehampton helpline: takes recorded messages which we will return: 01903 725503.
Parents Against Tetra was formed by a group of Littlehampton women in August 2003. They had gathered outside Arun District Council to protest while a meeting concerning TETRA took place inside.
One mother had personally always been concerned about the mobile phone mast at the police station and its proximity to her daughters school and their home. A friend who knew her concerns brought the local newspaper to her door one day, bearing a front page headline stating that TETRA had been added to the mast.
Earlier research with the group Mast Action, about mobile phone masts, had warned her about the dangers of TETRA. At that time she had been comforted that at least their mast was not TETRA. But now the nightmare had begun, every day.
Parents had gathered outside the Council on that August afternoon in support of local Councillor and ex-mayor Mark Butler, who was immediately on the case to oppose TETRA. We decided to form the group and called it Parents Against TETRA, the majority having children in one of the five schools that are all within 750 metres of the mast. The closest classrooms are a mere 100 metres away. Mark Butler became our Chairman and the group consisted originally of ten women.
This petition was signed by over two thousand people and was taken to Downing Street at the end of November 2003. We were filmed for two 10 minute slots on Meridian News about groups opposing TETRA. Our public meeting in Littlehampton was held 7th November 2003 and was attended by over 300 people but not by O2 (at least not officially!) or by the police (in their place we received a printed statement of their confidence in the TETRA system).
The meeting resulted in a unanimous vote against TETRA by all present. We were advised that the TETRA mast would be activated at the end of January, so we arranged a protest for 31st January. The plan was to raise 999 black balloons to the height of the mast, each balloon to represent one person in opposition. We were confident that we would have enough people to take part. On the day, the weather was dreadful, the wind blowing a gale and driving rain. We started filling the balloons undeterred, and in spite of the awful weather conditions we still had approximately three hundred people turn up. The balloons just tangled rather than flew, but it showed the determination of the local residents and made good coverage in the local newspapers and on television news.
The start of the troubles: 21st November 2003
This is how the story was reported:
In the last two days, a concerned Littlehampton resident telephoned O2 Airwave to enquire when the next testing period would be going ahead on the contraversial TETRA mast on the Police Station.
They were told (by an unnamed lady) that nobody was available to discuss the matter, that they would not discuss it, that no-one would be available later on to discuss it and that leaving a number for someone to call back was pointless because no-one would ring back.
The phone was then summarily put down on the incredulous caller.
We would like to remind O2 of the 10 commitments is:
To provide specific staff resources to respond to complaints and enquiries about radio base stations, within 10 working days.
There has already been a period of testing carried out on the mast. During this time, 11 children were sent home from a nearby school with nausea, nosebleeds and headaches. Sound familiar? It will do to the people in Liss and Dursley.
It has also been reported that local TV repair companies have been rushing around trying to fix the interference caused by the mast.
The story continues
There was respite at Christmas when the mast was switched off for a short period. Adverse health effects miraculously subsided.
The mast was switched on 26th February 2004. Within a matter of days health effects were being felt. As Stephanie Moorey relates:
I personally got a headache which felt like Id been watching TV or looking at a computer screen for too long. My first thought was: is this psychosomatic? So I decided that we should conduct a survey of the closest roads to the mast to see how people were feeling.
Every house in the designated area was given a survey to complete and we had a very high level of return. At the time of writing, 123 surveys have been returned showing 64% to be having TV interference, 42% suffering with disturbed sleep, 45% have impaired health suffering from headaches/nausea/ nosebleeds, 24% had no effects at all. We were grateful to those who filled out the surveys even when they were not feeling any effects, because it seems to make the survey more valid as we know that not everyone will be affected.
We were interested that the majority of those who were not affected still stated that they would like to be kept informed about the progress of our protest. The survey results have been passed on to Nick Gibb MP to take to the House of Commons, as well as to other influential people involved in trying to stop TETRA. Our next protest was SHOUT TETRA OUT, when we invited people to come and make a big noise, the idea being that no-ones listening. This was well attended and again was covered on television.
We are continuing with our survey and are looking forward to making our alliance with other groups stronger so that we can be part of a larger force.
We intend to go back to the schools as there has now been a lot more coverage on TETRA, and parents who originally thought we were nutty are starting to show their concerns.
TETRA at Littlehampton Police Station.