Storm over plan to install phone masts

03 May 2013

THE diocese of London is heading for a "showdown" with Westminster Council over plans to install nine mobile-phone masts at St Augustine's, Kilburn, a councillor warned on Wednesday.

In a judgment issued on 2 April, the Chancellor of the diocese of London, Judge Nigel Seed QC, granted a faculty for the installation at St Augustine's, and spoke out against the "ludicrous and ill- in-formed correspondence" with which he had been "bombarded".

Residents unhappy about the planned installation argue that the consultation carried out on behalf of the installation company was inadequate, and they cite concerns about potential health risks ( News, 23 November). Judge Seed dismissed both criticisms, and also rejected claims by the council, which has lodged a formal objection to the proceedings, that the installation would cause harm to the "special architectural and historical interest" of the building. The intervention of the council was prompted by an "ill-informed local campaign", he said.

A spokesman for Westminster Council said on Tuesday that "it is our view that it is likely to require planning permission," a point on which the Chancellor disagrees.

On Tuesday, the Vicar of St Augustine's, the Revd Colin Amos, said: "The judgment was made after taking into account all the points raised during the consultation process, and we are now working with the telecom operator on the next steps of the project."

On Wednesday, Councillor Alastair Moss said that if any works were done to the church, the council would take "enforcement action . . . There is a fundamental misunderstanding by the Chancellor and the Vicar that they do not need planning permission."

He said: "What Westminser Council wants to avoid, and local residents want to avoid, is a show-down between the diocese of London, Westminster Council, and English Heritage, which is what this is heading toward."

The Chancellor's criticism of the campaign as "ill-informed" was "outrageous": "This is not a political grandstanding opportunity at all: it's quite simply that the local community has said they are opposed to this . . . and locally democratically elected people are standing up for them."

Guidance from the London diocesan advisory committee on telecommunication installations notes that health-and-safety concerns are "among several issues with an ethical dimension", and suggests that "a new transmittor should not be placed close to a school or other building containing young or vulnerable people."

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