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TETRA and planning


Telecommunications Masts (Planning Control) Bill. 3 March 2006. Why you must write to your MP and ask:

  1. Do you think that your constituents’ right to determine their own living and working environment is respected by the current situation regarding the erection of mobile phone masts of all kinds?
  2. Does the current planning situation reflect the intentions of the Aarhus convention?
  3. Given the huge and continuing concerns about the potential risks to human health from long-term constant exposure, is it acceptable that community concerns should be completely disregarded in the face of purely commercial interest?

If your MP concedes any one of these, then they have a moral duty to represent you, their constituents, and be present to support the Bill.

Simple and clear; we want our MPs there on the 24th, and to vote.

Planning should be by consent and consultation. If you read the documentation from the government on mobile masts in general, you will see glossy brochures full of smiling faces and masts disguised as trees, lampposts, lights, cameras – anything but what they are. It seems that either they think all we are worried about is appearance, or that by hiding, we will not know what emissions are being sent through us. They even suggest using houses to bend microwave beams to reach ‘those parts other masts can’t reach’!

TETRA is harder to hide, and much more dangerous. And sadly the planning principles have been utterly trampled on by TETRA operators, with false claims of emergency measures, restrospective planning applications (ie illegally erected masts in search of permission), and secretive installation activity. O2 Airwave seem to think that they have the divine right to do whatever they like. (There are some useful quotes from them at the head of our O2 letters section.)

For the best advice on planning, go straight to:

 Mast Sanity

 Planning Sanity

There are many paradoxes to planning and it takes a great deal of skill and hard work to beat the system. But don’t give up.

TETRA, through Connaught County Junior School TETRA, Ludgershall
Children spend 6 hours in this school. Governors and parents have to give consent if the main beam falls on their buildings or grounds. But children sleep in TETRA emissions for 8 hours a day in their homes, and no-one has to be asked!

 To begin to understand the issues and to help local authorities and others with the issues, see our Planning Links page. Many TETRA masts have gone up by default or mistake, because local councils, communities or protestors simply did not know what was happening. Full and open consultation on TETRA is rare.

 As people become more aware of the risks to health of pulsed microwave masts, this will increasingly feature in objections and appeals. It is a valid objection that a transmission mast causes ‘perception of endangerment to health’. Just because of ambiguity in the planning guidance (not law) in PPG8, this is not always accepted by planning inspectors on appeal. However appeals have been successfully rejected as in this case of Beare, Exeter against Vodaphone. But compare this simultaneous decision about a 3G mast in Carlisle! It is desperately urgent that planning for masts is completely reviewed and overhauled.

 Read this press release about an HM Planning Inspector apologising for not taking a community’s fears about health into consideration.

Remember: most of what we have to deal with in terms of siting and permission, is nothing to do with law. Much is guidance, from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, and is in effect entirely arbitrary and subjective in its application.

Note this from Hazel Blears, Home Office, in House of Commons TETRA Debate, 10th July 2003:

‘The code of practice states that companies should be especially careful about siting masts in the vicinity of schools and hospitals. The situation in Lewisham fell firmly into that category and we shall ensure that the company is fully reminded of its responsibilities.’

Really? Was it? And did it make a jot of difference?

The All Party Parliamentary Mobile Group is holding a public inquiry on planning and siting of mobile phone masts. In July 2004 they published their first report, with recommendations for revision to the PPG8 Guidelines.

Here is an extract with some of the recommendations of the July 2004 APMobile report:

5.20 There are many different views arising out of extensive research on the potential risks to health from the siting and location of mobile phone masts. The role of the planning system is to resolve the conflict between different land-uses, and in the case of telecommunications masts, there is strong evidence to suggest that this use of land causes conflict. It is our view that as long as the risk to health remains unknown, the planning system has a duty to reduce risk perception by adopting the precautionary approach to the siting and location of mobile phone masts. We have made recommendations to involve communities more in the process which we believe will help to reduce risk perception. However, we believe that we must reduce the risk itself, until conclusive research dictates safety limits for telecommunications installations.

R12. We recommend that the perceived risk and fear arising out of health concerns could be reduced by the adoption of consultation methods which are aimed at involving communities and others more.

R13. We recommend that until much more detailed and scientifically robust information on any health effects from the use of mobile phone technologies becomes available, the precautionary approach be adopted when discussing and allowing for the siting and location of masts, in line with Sir William Stewart's recommendation in the IEGMP Report of 2000, and that this be reflected in a revised PPG 8.

The Local Government Association

Representing the local Councils, and sharing the growing concern over planning for telecommunications masts, the LGA has been in talks with the industry (Mobile Operators Association, MOA), with the ODPM and with local councils. It supported Richrd Spring’s Private Members Bill in March and submitted case studies highlighting difficulties. An LGA communication oberved:

‘TETRA ... is emblematic of the problem. Even if government believes there are no health risks associated with the development of TETRA masts, it is unlikely to say so categorically (so that they cannot be considered in the planning process) because government legal opinion is that the Human Rights Act makes this impossible. Instead, it is presumably hoped that case law will develop and create the precedents that will settle the issue. Unfortunately, local communities’ feelings on these matters run very high in some places which makes it difficult for local councils and their members to ignore.’

The general official opinion is that there are no health risks associated with pulsed microwave transmitters at the power levels at which they operate. Opinion to the contrary is a nuisance, but there is sufficient uncertainty that the Government would not ever want to admit retrospectively that they were wrong to say there was no risk when there was. They would like to rely on new case law to become established such that health perceptions need not be taken into account in planning. In the meantime, they see the job of Councils as being to convince the public that their fears are unfounded. Difficult when you get the electrical hypersensitivity symptoms.


Given the widespread and consistent reporting of adverse health effects, it is time for the Government to come clean and investigate. This problem is not going to go away, and the people that Airwave is supposed to help, in their work as emergency services employees, are closest in the firing line. It isn’t just TETRA either. It’s just that TETRA has more instant effects and more worrying characteristics.

 Read about the police problems with a TETRA mast on the police station.

 Read about the US firefighters suffering from mobile antennae on their stations. All the same symptoms.

The Ten Commitments

Mobile telecomms operators supposedly sign up to these principles for ethical operation. O2 Airwave is a notable exception. Of course, you might think that research sponsored by operators is less than impartial, or that workshops for local authorities might tend to tell a preferred side to the story and avoid unpalletable truths; but we could not possibly comment...

Note: these are expressions of principles in network development, not behaviours relating to individual mast siting.

  1. develop, with other stakeholders, clear standards and procedures to deliver significantly improved consultation with local communities

  2. participate in obligatory pre-rollout and pre-application consultation with local planning authorities

  3. publish clear, transparent and accountable criteria and cross-industry agreement on site sharing, against which progress will be published regularly

  4. establish professional development workshops on technological developments within telecommunications for local authority officers and elected members

  5. deliver, with the Government, a database of information available to the public on radio base stations

  6. assess all radio base stations for international (ICNIRP) compliance for public exposure, and produce a programme for ICNIRP compliance for all radio base stations as recommended by the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones

  7. provide, as part of planning applications for radio base stations, a certification of compliance with ICNIRP public exposure guidelines

  8. provide specific staff resources to respond to complaints and enquiries about base stations, within ten working days

  9. begin financially supporting the Government’s independent scientific research programme on mobile communications health issues

  10. develop standard supporting documentation for all planning submissions whether full planning or prior approval

In the supporting statement to a recent TETRA planning application, Airwave’s agent (Don Proctor) states the following:

‘Although the 10 commitments were created by the (GSM) mobile operators, Airwave is committed to operate in the spirit of these Commitments, designed to site base stations as responsibly as possible, with specific provision of community consultation in respect of “sensitive” sites.’

This confirms the premise that O2 Airwave is not a signatory to the Ten Commitments. The understanding that Airwave has developed its own code of best siting practice is probably quite correct – that nothing must stand in the way of siting TETRA masts wherever the company wants them.

So how does this stack up with stories like this one from Birmingham, representative of so many others over the last three years?

 Plea to tear down mast, 9 April 2004

Well, as we have seen, to date O2 Airwave is not signed up to the Ten Commitments anyway.

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TETRA, Reynolds Building, Bognor
TETRA on Reynolds Building, Bognor Regis. O2 Airwave refused to co-operate in its removal, lied about switching it off and continued to use the site as the distrct switch.

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