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Norwich community wins phone mast battle

PUBLISHED: 14:18 30 December 2010

Some residents who live near St Peter's Methodist Church, Park Lane, are upset about plans to install phone masts in the church.; Carla Jones with Rachel Hall (no hat) and their children Henry Tasker Hall, Ewan and Lily Jones and Amy Tasker Hall.

Some residents who live near St Peter's Methodist Church, Park Lane, are upset about plans to install phone masts in the church.; Carla Jones with Rachel Hall (no hat) and their children Henry Tasker Hall, Ewan and Lily Jones and Amy Tasker Hall.

ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC © 2010

Families in Norwich's Golden Triangle have scored a victory after proposals for mobile phone antennae on a local church were dropped before plans had even been submitted.

Mobile phone operators Vodafone and O2 wanted to install three antennae at St Peter’s Methodist Church in Park Lane in order to boost the capacity of their networks.

Their agent WFS Telecom wrote to neighbours, notifying them of the proposals, as part of a “pre-application consultation”.

But after local people raised concerns, the church said it did not wish to fall out with the community and that it would not take the plans any further.

Rachel Ward, 38, who lives in neighbouring Avenue Road, said she was worried about the possible health effects of the antennae on her twins Amy and Henry, eight, along with other children living locally and at nearby Avenue Middle, Recreation Road Infant and Parkside schools.

“A letter was handed to me by a neighbour on December 23 as I was packing to leave for Christmas. It seems to have been sent to a few local residents, but by no means everyone,” she said.

The letter, dated December 14, said Vodafone and O2 were working together to share equipment on a number of sites across the UK.

“As you will appreciate, without a network of efficient base station sites, the mobile phones or other wireless devices upon which our society now relies so heavily will not work,” it said.

Three antennae were proposed; two on the south-west corner of the building within a mock chimney extension, and the other mounted on an existing chimney on its north-west corner.

The letters, dated December 14, invited responses within 14 days, but said allowances would be made for the Christmas holiday.

Ms Ward, 38, said: “It seems to me they are doing this to see how many people shout about it. Doing it at Christmas means it’s going to be low-level. It does seem quite underhand.

“I have spent Christmas emailing and Facebooking people I know to raise awareness of it. People are outraged about this – how could the church do it?”

Cornerstone, the joint Vodafone / O2 team behind the proposals, failed to respond to questions from the Evening News.

Keith Poltock, property secretary of St Peter’s Methodist Church, said it faced “financial challenges” after membership had fallen to about 50.

Church officials had met the phone companies and agreed they could apply for outline planning permission, he said.

“We told them if they wanted to do a survey it would be at their expense and that any application for outline planning permission would be speculative on their part.

“Churches cost a lot to run and any rent would help to pay maintenance on the building, but the church does not want to be in a controversy and we said if anyone objected or complained the whole thing would be dead.”

On hearing the news, Ms Ward, a part-time registrar, said: “I’m delighted. It feels like a weight off my mind. It makes you feel good about the church. I know they are in financial difficulties and it will be nice to see if there’s some way we can help them.”

Are you fighting development in your community? Contact environment reporter Jon Welch on 01603 772476 or email jon.welch@archant.co.uk.

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