'No phone masts on Civic Centre roof'

ACCUSATIONS of double standards have been levelled at Devon County Council after a not-on-our-roof reaction to suggestions a mobile phone mast be installed on the Civic Centre in Barnstaple. District councillor Des Brailey was told staff were likely to

ACCUSATIONS of double standards have been levelled at Devon County Council after a "not-on-our-roof" reaction to suggestions a mobile phone mast be installed on the Civic Centre in Barnstaple.District councillor Des Brailey was told staff were "likely to object" to having it on the building, despite most authorities and the Government having declared the controversial radiation-emitting equipment safe.It began when alarmed Sticklepath Hill residents alerted Cllr Brailey, after learning Vodafone had started work to erect a 44-ft mast on the roadside verge by High Wall and in front of their bedroom windows.North Devon Council planners issued a "stop work" notice and subsequently refused permission for the scheme, designed to replace an existing mast at North Devon College before the college moved.The communications company has appealed and this will be heard by an inspector on March 11.The Government wants masts to go on council owned land, so Cllr Brailey, also deputy leader of North Devon Council, approached the county - which owns the nine-storey Civic Centre - with residents' concerns."I asked if we could put it on top of the Civic Centre, or find a more suitable space for it," he told the Gazette."An officer emailed and said they had been approached before, but always refused for various reasons."One was that staff would be likely to object to having it on an office building where so many of them worked. "If such equipment is safe, why shouldn't it go there? It is obviously okay to place masts near people's homes and on top of a college instead."He said other county objections included security, possible interference with CCTV cameras and a lack of 24-hour access."I spoke to our officers, who said they don't have 24-hour access to the college building, it is only the mast which goes on the roof, the rest stays at ground level and it will only affect cameras if you put it in front of one!" added Cllr Brailey.In its planning application dated last year, Vodafone said it had considered a variety of locations, including the Civic Centre. It said the county had agreed in principle to accommodate the company, but had withdrawn permission following a review of the site and the possibility of its redevelopment.Sticklepath residents are not pleased at the prospect of a tall mast looming over their houses. John Lathbury, at nearby Culm View said: "There's no need for this to be here. I think Vodafone are being belligerent about it and are trying to set a legal precedent."The mast will be in front of peoples' bedroom windows."Richard Harris, of High wall, added: "The mast won't be above the roofs, so the signal is going to be close to the houses and bedrooms. If it sets a precedent we could end up with half a dozen of these things here."A county spokesman said: "Devon County Council would review any approaches from mobile phone operators seeking to locate installations on the Council's land on a case by case basis and would come to a decision having regard to the planning, environmental and other considerations surrounding the case in question.

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