TETRA: Say no to an unsafe technologyfind out more information about TETRA

Rogate, West Sussex


In July 2003 Rogate residents were advised, via a mail drop and one or two personal contacts, about a meeting to be held in Stedham Village Hall on 17th July. At that meeting, Ian Sharp, a Physicist from Sidlesham, talked about his concerns relating to what he saw as the potential health risks associated with TETRA masts, applications for which were increasingly being applied for through the Local Planning Authorities around the country. We subsequently learnt that an application was to be submitted for a TETRA mast at Forge Farm, Rogate.

The four people from Rogate who attended the meeting at Stedham were very concerned about what they heard and decided to organise their own meeting for residents of Rogate and invited Ian Sharp to speak at that meeting. Prior to that we distributed leaflets about TETRA, and the related perceived health concerns, around Rogate and arranged a meeting for August 14th in Rogate Village Hall. Nearly 200 people attended and most became equally concerned about what they heard.

We tried to enlist the help of our District and County Councillors with no success. However, the Parish Council became very supportive, committed and helpful.

A small group of six people formed the ‘Anti-Tetra team’ in Rogate and people kindly donated money to support our efforts.

Once we heard that an application had been submitted for a Tetra mast at Forge Farm, Rogate, we immediately distributed standard letters and further information about TETRA, asking people to sign the letters and send them in. Alternatively they could put them in a box we organised in Rogate Stores or write their own personal letters of objection. There were over 300 letters of objection submitted against this first application.

As is the normal process now, we were allowed to invite five people to speak at the Local Planning Authority meeting against this application and this we did. The meeting was held on 15th October. A number of people from Rogate, Stedham (their planning application was being reviewed at the same meeting) sat in the public gallery. The objections were based on both environmental and health concerns. At that meeting the Rogate application was rejected on environmental grounds. Some of the Councillors on the Planning Committee also stated that they felt they should take into account the real fears about the potential health risks associated with TETRA masts felt by the people they represented.

While this application process was going on, Airwave submitted a second application for a TETRA mast at Forge Farm, the process for which is called twin-tracking. We went through a similar process as for the first application in terms of communicating details of the application around Rogate, offering standard letters, encouraging people to write their own letters. A similar number of objection letters were submitted and again we organised speakers for the Local Planning Authority meeting. The second application at Forge Farm was rejected by Chichester District Council LPA on similar grounds to the first one.

While the applications were going through the planning process, Airwave mmO2 decided they would try and erect the mast without waiting for planning permission. They arrived on Saturday 10th January around 6am and erected the mast and put the generator and the equipment box on site ready to connect and test. Luckily residents of Rogate were vigilant and saw this happening. Some residents arrived at the site and formed a blockade. The police were called. As this was an unlawful act, the BT representatives were asked to leave without being able to connect the equipment. From then on residents of Rogate, not trusting Airwave mmO2 not to come back as soon as we had left the site, kept a vigil going, initially for a week. We waited and hoped that Chichester District Council would take appropriate action and insist that the mast be removed as it did not have planning permission. This vigil was a 24 hour a day vigil for which we hired a camper van as it was the middle of winter and we felt it was unacceptable to have people sitting out round the brazier or in their cars as it was too cold.

Rogate Vigil Rogate residents kept vigil for nearly four weeks at Forge Farm, to prevent the connection of an illegally erected TETRA mast.

At the time we received an enormous amount of media attention and residents, when asked, would turn up in all weathers and at all times of the day and night whenever required by Meridian TV, GMTV, BBC, Sky News, national and local papers etc.

Unfortunately Chichester District Council did not take action as quickly as we would have liked but kept giving Airwave mmO2 more time. We therefore gave up the hired camper van, borrowed another one and continued the vigil for further two and a half weeks in total.

On Monday 12th January, following a meeting between officials and elected members of the District Council, a press release was issued which incorporated the following:

‘Following investigations into planning breaches committed by 02 where two Tetra masts have been erected that have not been given planning permission (the other one being at East Marden), Chichester District Council has warned 02 to take the masts down by 1.00pm on Wednesday 14th January or face an injunction. 02 has been contacted by Chichester District Council which has warned that it will commence injunction proceedings to require their removal and prevent any further unauthorised masts in the district if it does not comply with its request to remove the masts by 1.00pm on Wednesday 14th January 2004.’

This deadline came and went. On Wednesday, further negotiations took place between the Council and Airwave and a second press release was issued:

‘Following the breaches of Planning Permission by 02 with respect to two Tetra masts in Rogate and East Marden, Chichester District Council is reserving its position to seek High Court injunctions to secure removal of the masts. A new deadline of 5.00pm on Friday, 16th January 2004 was given to 02 to remove the masts and associated plant and equipment. 02 have confirmed that they will comply with the District Council’s request and have stated that they aim to use their best endeavours to remove the masts by lunchtime on Friday. This is subject to contractors not experiencing any adverse weather conditions which may have health and safety implications. In addition, Chichester District Council has required 02 not to proceed with any such developments at either Rogate or East Marden or elsewhere within the Chichester District area unless all appropriate consents have been granted.’

At 11.40 pm on the night of Thursday, 15th January, Airwave arrived to take away the equipment. There were four residents there at the time. Another member of the team was called for and she went immediately to the site. The contractors said they had been told by Airwave mmO2 that if any press arrived, they would leave the site; that if any cameras were used, they would leave the site; and that they had instructions to take away the mast and the generator but not the equipment box. Residents were on site all night to ensure at least some of the equipment was removed and was able to use a camcorder and take photos from behind some shrubbery which we subsequently passed on to Meridian TV. The Airwave representatives also took down licence plate numbers of the residents’ cars at the site in an intimidating manner. Rogate residents continued the vigil.

Finally, Airwave mmO2 did come and take away the rest of the equipment. We then stopped the vigil after approximately a total of three and a half weeks but kept a wary eye on the site.

In spite of this application being for a temporary mast, Airwave mmO2 subsequently appealed against the decision by Chichester District Council in regard to the first Forge Farm application and the Planning Inspectorate eventually decided in favour of Airwave mmO2, even though hundreds of letters of objection were sent to the Inspectorate.

In the Inspecorate’s decision document, Airwave mmO2 were charged with not taking any equipment to the site until they had gone back to Chichester District Council and agreed with them the nature and colour of the materials they were to use. However, within 2 days of permission being given by the Inspectorate Airwave mmO2 were back at the site to erect the mast without adhering to the Inspectorate’s demands. We again attended the site, informed Chichester District Council and the Planning Inspectorate and CDC insisted Airwave comply with the Inspectorate’s decision before erecting the mast. The mast is now in situ.

At the same time, in October 2003 an application was submitted for a Tetra mast at Combe Hill Nursery, Rake, which is within the parish of Rogate and within one and a half miles of Forge Farm. We went through the same process as for the others distributing information and standard letters. A few of us attended planning meetings and the application was once again rejected by the CDC Planning Committee. Airwave mmO2 again went to appeal and 920 signatures objecting to this mast were submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. At the time of writing this page we are still waiting to hear their decision. We regretfully anticipate that it will be given permission.

We will be keeping an eye on the site at Forge Farm to ensure that the mast does come down in one year. At this time there is still a small group of people keeping in touch with what is happening on Tetra across the country and communicating it to residents in Rogate. That group still attend meetings of Planning Committees, Police public relations meetings, lobby Government, and generally support the campaign against Tetra whenever and wherever possible.

Vivienne Coleshill, Rogate, June 2004

TETRA, Forge Farm, Rogate
TETRA at Forge Farm. Rogate.
Where the Government still can’t see the wood for the trees.

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