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02/12/2004 - Children lose phone mast appeal

AN OBJECTION by two young children to the erection of a mobile phone mast near their school was rejected by the Court of Appeal yesterday.

The verdict could influence 12,000 similar applications for third-generation masts throughout the country, including an appeal over a mast near three schools in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

Plans to site the 11.7m-high Orange mobile phone mast near a school in Winchester were approved by appeal judges, who dismissed an appeal brought in the names of Phoebe St Leger-Davey, 6, and James Harrison, 7.

Lawyers for the children had told the court that they lived and went to school within 250 to 300 metres of the mast site and within the zone of greatest intensity of electromagnetic emissions. They and their families were concerned about the potential health impacts.

The children wanted an order overturning a planning inspectors decision last August allowing the mast in a leafy cul-de-sac, Byron Avenue.

It was argued that Orange should have challenged the refusal of the owners of two alternative sites the roof of the Hampshire Police headquarters and the car park at Winchester railway station to allow the mast to be erected. The appeal judges held that there was no legal obligation on a mobile phone operator to take such court action. The inspector had been entitled to conclude that there was no better location than Byron Avenue in the light of indications by the police and Network Rail that their sites were not available for operational reasons.

After the judgment, Phoebes mother, Caroline St Leger- Davey, had the following to say:

"Everybody in Winchester living near the mast site and the school will be horrified. But we havent given up. We are looking to appeal to the House of Lords."

The inspector, in approving Byron Avenue, had concluded that the health risk was minimal and that, balancing need against environmental impact and in the absence of an alternative site, the plan was acceptable.

Lord Justice Pill, sitting with Lords Justices Mummery and Laws, ruled that the inspector rightly took into account the views of the police and Network Rail and was not required to analyse how the County Court might have dealt with the situation if Orange had challenged their refusal.

See original article on Times Online, dated 2nd December 2004