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16/11/2004 - 3G Planning Fiasco

A programme on BBC3 on Thursday 11th November, and further interviews on GMTV on the morning of 12th November 2004 revealed major problems in the planning process with regard to mobile phone mast applications, especially 3G. Operators are frequently installing 3G equipment on existing masts without telling anybody - they claim it is just "maintenance"!

Local communities' opinions were not listened to, even when such consultations had taken place. Some local authorities turn down applications, planning inspectors may uphold such rejections, and even when, as in Harrogate, the rejection is supported by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the courts have overturned the wishes of local authorities, local communities, government offices and have upheld appeals by the mobile telecommunications operators.

What can be done?

Unless there are some changes in legislation, little progress appears to be being made by current protests and legal action. The best way of preventing 3G masts from being put up is not to buy 3G phones.

That sounds drastic! Why is this necessary?

Consultations with schools in the vicinity of a proposed mast (a requirement of one of the MOA 10 commitments) were almost non-existent and 1 in 10 schools have a mast within 200 metres of their buildings.

The system is undemocratic, operators seem to be acting in very devious ways and the government, despite empty protests, is turning deaf ears to the electorate's concerns. The Conservative party is making sympathetic, concerned noises, but it is doubtful if they would be able to resist the pressure of 1 billion + pounds worth of tax revenue from mobile phone companies, even if they were to be elected into office.

Dr Thomas Owens, of Brunel University in August 2004 (BBC News), said "At the moment 3G has not delivered what was hoped for and people are not using it anything like as much as the operators hoped". So Brunel is leading a project - Instinct - to send TV signals to 3G mobiles, to persuade people to buy them. The project will have £6.4 million pounds of EU funding.

The government seems to be on the side of the companies, so no help there.

The bottom line is that power lies with the consumer. If no-one uses 3G phones, no new masts will go up, no erected masts will stay up. Perhaps the campaigners need to change their protest sites to outside phone sales outlets and persuade purchasers not to buy 3G.