Kent council bans mobile masts

Council calls on mobile phone companies to end their silence over safety concerns

Kent County Council (KCC) Monday called upon mobile phone companies to stop hiding from the public and start addressing concerns over the possible health effects of mobile phone masts.

The comments came after the council agreed a policy of refusing planning permission for mobile masts on all of its land -- which amounts to a thousand sites and two thousand buildings throughout Kent. KCC also urged mobile phone companies to voluntarily apply for full planning permission for all masts, as recommended in the Stewart Report.

Deputy council leader Keith Ferrin explained that the decision was taken in response to increasing public concern over the safety of mobile phone masts. He believes that the evasive attitude of mobile phone companies has caused public concern to escalate.

"We have registered continual concern from people about mobile phone masts. Mobile phone companies are making this situation worse, because of a failure to talk to the public," says Ferrin. "Why not handle your PR in a sensible way rather than acting so that people think you have something to hide?" he asked.

He explained that this attitude has forced the council to take action: "Mobile phone companies are driving people like us to have to deal with it because they don't. Why should we have to deal with their pain when they won't?"

KCC also called upon the government to implement the recommendations of the Stewart Report, the government-commissioned enquiry into mobile health concerns which was published May 2000.

"I'd like the government to get on and enforce the recommendations of the Stewart Report. The government's period of consultation ended in September 2000. There is no reason for them not to take action now," says Ferrin.

A spokesman for Orange admits that more could be done by the mobile firms to reassure the public about the safety of mobile phone masts. "We are working together to ensure the public interface is better," he says.

He claims it would be premature of Kent County Council to act "unilaterally" on this issue before a national government policy on the issue is drawn up. "Such a move could unnecessarily disadvantage Kent residents and businesses," he says. "On the balance of evidence there is no risk to general health from base stations," he claims.

A spokesman for UK mobile operator Vodafone reiterates this point. "The Stewart Report says that, on the balance of evidence, there is no adverse impact from mobile communications on the UK population," he says. The spokesman also points out that the government has yet to produce the public consultation called for by the Stewart Report. "It's still in the pot," he says

Vodafone says that it is working to address public concerns about mobile phone health risks and is producing research on the safety of mobile phone technology. The Radiocommunications Agency is about to commence an independent audit of radio base station wave emissions as recommended by the Stewart Report.

In an industry statement, the Federation of the Electronics Industry calls for a meeting between Kent County Council and the mobile phone industry to "discuss future radio station development in Kent". It also pays lip service to current health fears. "The mobile phone industry acknowledges that there are public concerns about the health aspects of radio base stations and is committed to addressing those in an open and transparent way," the statement reads.

Rupert Goodwins is getting in a froth about the the very doyen of middle-class sensibilities, Radio 4's You and Yours programme transmitting a piece about radio and health. He asks "What is the risk?" We live in a country where you can buy cigarettes over the counter and drink yourself to a coma every night. He maintains the only danger you're in from your mobile phone comes from colonic rupture if it rings once too often, too loudly in a place filled with choleric Chelsea fans. Go to AnchorDesk for the news comment.

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