Uproar at phone mast plan

Harrogate Borough Councillors 2010'Cllr Cliff Trotter
Harrogate Borough Councillors 2010'Cllr Cliff Trotter

A HARROGATE councillor is leading the charge against a local sports club after it announced plans to erect a mobile phone mast behind his house.

The proposal, by Harrogate Racquets Club on Firs Lane, would see a 15 metre high mast put up towards the back of one of the courts, a stones throw from Coun Cliff Trotter’s back garden.

Coun Trotter said: “It’s apparently going to be 15 metres high, one of the biggest in Harrogate and it’s going to be right at the bottom of my garden, only 15 yards from my back door and so close to my house.

“A lot of people locally are worried about the risk of cancer, but you can’t fight these things on that basis as it’s never been proved,” he said, “The only way you can fight these masts is on the basis that they are an intrusion and an eyesore.”

Coun Trotter, who has collected names, signatures and letters from a group of concerned residents intent on protesting the proposal, said he contacted the council’s planning department and was told that nothing had been submitted yet, but he added that he and other residents were concerned about the prospect of the phone mast decreasing the value of their houses.

He said: “I was at a meeting of the parish council and heard from a farmer who was hitting hard times and had one put up in his garden to earn some money.

“When he decided to move it took him seven years to sell his farm because everyone who came to see it took one look at the phone mast and said no.”

A council spokesman said the proposal had been submitted as a pre-planning application, meaning the interested parties had contacted the authority to ask for details of what would be expected of them in any future planning application.

The racquet club, which houses tennis courts, badminton and squash was previously contemplating relocating and leasing the site on Firs Road for housing, however plans fell through and it is now looking into other funding options to continue to advance its business plans.

Chairman of the Harrogate Racquet Club Richard Shannon, said: “It’s a shame in our mind that this has become an issue, because from our perspective we have done everything we can at this point. We have communicated our plans with our two closest neighbours and will be meeting with them in the near future to discuss the plans further.

“We were approached by somebody acting on behalf of the phone companies and that was the catalyst for the proposal.

“We are still consulting over the ideas, but all businesses have a business plan and we are looking at ways to raise funds and advance those plans,” he said.

“It’s not something that’s really too far progressed, we haven’t got any firm plans yet, but yes it is something we are considering.”

A spokesman for Cornerstone, working on behalf of Vodafone and O2, said: “Our customers expect to be able to use their mobiles and devices where they live work and travel.

“We have identified that we need to improve the 3G coverage to our customers in Harrogate and have proposed a shared base station on Firs Road.”

She said the base stations were low-powered, only covering approximately half a mile in radius and therefore needed to be placed near customers, but that they were designed, built and operated within strict guidelines formally backed by independent bodies such as the World Health Organisation.

She added: “We recognise that some communities are concerned regarding the deployment of radio base stations close to residential areas but without radio base stations, mobile phones will not be able to work.”