Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document
Meeting of the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 28/11/2005
Minutes of the Meeting held on 28th November 2005
MINUTES of the MEETING of
the ENVIRONMENT AND
LEISURE OVERVIEW AND
SCRUTINY COMMITTEE held
28TH NOVEMBER 2005
(To be read in conjunction with the Agenda for the Meeting)
Mr J R Sandy (Chairman)
Mrs S R Jacobs
Mrs M V M Hunt (Vice Chairman)
Dr P M Marriott
Mr M H W Band
Mrs P N Mitchell
Dr J F A Blowers
Mr J M Savage
Mr M W Byham
Mrs J A Slyfield
Mr R D Frost
Ms M Taylor
Mr P D Harmer
Mr A E B Taylor-Smith
Mrs P Hibbert
Mr R C Terry
Mrs L S R Hodgson
Mr B A Ellis and Mrs A E Mansell attended as substitutes.
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Mrs M V M Hunt and Mr A E B Taylor-Smith.
DISCLOSURE OF INTERESTS
No personal interests were declared at the meeting.
SPECIAL HEARING INTO ISSUES REGARDING MOBILE PHONE TECHNOLOGY
The Chairman explained the purpose of the meeting which was to gather information to help with policy formulation about mobile phone technology and the siting of mobile phone masts. He welcomed members of the public and asked them to complete and return the feedback forms if they wanted to contribute to the review. This information would be used to help compile a report to be discussed by the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
The Committee then received six oral presentations of twenty minutes each from the interested parties and representative bodies detailed below.
Ian Ellis, Consultant Planner, Waverley Borough Council
Representing the Council, Ian Ellis explained that national policy supported and encouraged the development of the telecommunications network and that there was a presumption in favour of it, subject to tests set out in PPG8 and Waverley’s own Policy D11, together with the Industry’s 10 commitments.
A map of the sites of mobile phone masts in the Borough was tabled and it was explained that permission would generally be granted subject to various considerations including that the siting, height and design had no material adverse impact. He went on to explain that planning permission would be required in any event if the development was in a AONB, Conservation Area or Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Elaine Bowyer, Surrey Social and Market Research (SSMR)
Elaine Bowyer set out the findings of the survey that SSMR had conducted, which provided feedback from Waverley residents concerning perceptions of the impact of mobile phone technology, specifically the siting of mobile phone masts. She explained the research methods used, which included two focus groups and a self-completion questionnaire which had been sent to 2500 Waverley residents.
A total of 858 residents replied to the survey. The key responses showed that 90% of residents had a mobile phone, and 39% used their phone every day. Asked whether they had concerns about mobile phone technology, 42% replied they were somewhat concerned and 18% were very concerned, mainly about health issues. In terms of siting of phone masts, 23% felt they were generally well positioned and 41% felt some consideration was given. Most people felt that masts should never be sited near certain areas, for example, junior schools. The survey found that if the masts had to be there, residents felt that they preferred to see as few masts as technically possible. In terms of importance to residents, the issue was rated as less important to people than recycling and refuse collection, but more important than leisure provision.
Nicola Davies, Mobile Operators Association
Nicola described how customer demand for mobile phones had risen dramatically since the late 1980s and she went on to describe how the networks operated. She explained that mobile phones were essentially low powered radio sets and that base stations received and transmitted on their signals. Each base station could only support a limited number of users. Customer demand dictated the number and location of bases.
The need for continuing development to improve capacity and coverage of 2nd Generation (2G) phones was explained. The existing 2G networks would be in operation for the foreseeable future and would run in tandem with the 3rd Generation (3G) phones. Nicola Davies said that 3G had the potential to deliver more, for instance attracting inward investment and major leisure events and giving customers, including business, better mobile, voice, fax and email capacity.
She described the role of the Local Planning Authority (LPA) from the mobile phone operators’ perspective. A number of things were important to operators including that an annual roll-out meeting took place, that a mast register was available for existing sites in the Borough, that officers were willing to engage in pre-application discussions and that members were involved in consultations where appropriate.
Operators felt that if more potential sites were available for consideration, then there was a greater likelihood of achieving a balance between environmental, technical and community expectations. Furthermore, local authority owned land was often well suited to the siting of masts. Nicola went on to describe best practice from the operators’ perspective and said that the industry’s 10 commitments aimed to improve consultation and provide more information and transparency. She described the 10 commitments which were:
Improved consultation with communities
Detailed consultation with planners
More transparency in site sharing
Workshops for local authorities and planning officers
Site database at
Network International Commission for Non Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) public exposure compliance
Prompt response to enquiries
Scientific research programme
Standard supplementary documentation for all planning applications
The presentation was summarised by saying that the operators were keen to continue to develop new services to meet demand, working with local authorities and communities. It needed to be a two-way process, tailored to individual sites and communities.
Tony Machen, Manor Gardens Action Group
Tony Machen said he was representing a group of people who were opposed to an application from Orange to site a mobile phone mast in their area – Manor Gardens in Frensham. The group had carried out a survey and were speaking for around 500 people. The results of the survey found that of the 87 people who replied, 56% felt it would impact on health and 27% on their well being.
The group had collected a petition of 518 people objecting to the mast at the entrance to Manor Gardens. They objected because of the proximity to houses and Frensham Schoool, and also because it was only 15m from a resident’s property. The group also felt the proposed mast would be an eyesore and that estate agents’ valuations had showed a drop by at least £500,000 amongst the value of all the affected houses.
He said that although there was little conclusive evidence of health risk linked to mobile phones and masts, he referred to Swedish and Israeli studies which suggested that a precautionary approach was needed. He then recounted his personal experience of health problems which he felt might be attributable to heavy mobile phone use.
Referring to a telecommunications Early Day Motion and a Bill which was due for its second reading in Parliament in February, Tony Machen said that he hoped that the law relating to planning would better protect residents in future.
Andy Davidson, TETRA Watch
Andy Davidson was representing a group called TETRA Watch which carried out research and was concerned about the introduction of the new Home Office police TETRA communications system. He said that most people now used mobile phone technology and that with 11 national infrastructures, there was an excess of masts. He said that the concerns about impact on health could not be dismissed and that although the science was often difficult to understand, residents had a duty to ask questions about proposed developments. TETRA Watch felt there were many myths about the technology related to mobile phones and masts, such as that ‘People are afraid of new technology’ and that ‘People imagine all sorts of things: and that’s what makes them ill.’
He explained what non-ionising radiation was, how it affected the behaviour of molecules, of cells and whole living systems and that people’s biggest fear was developing cancer from chronic exposure to the new technology. He said the biggest reported effects included sleep problems, headaches, nausea and nosebleeds. He also described the TETRA system (Terrestrial Trunked Radio Emergency Services in UK) and said there were over 3,700 masts with a typical mast range of 11km. Each mast had a capacity of around 32 users and what was different about TETRA was that it carried a lower frequency which was more penetrative than that of mobile phones, but poorer in terms of data capacity.
Andy Davidson went on to discuss 3G and explained that it worked at a higher frequency, carrying more data. Despite numerous studies demonstrating harmful biological effects, he said these remain ‘unproven’. Despite that, he felt that people’s health could be being genuinely affected.
Dr Mike Clark, Health Protection Agency (Formerly NRPB)
Dr Clark focused on the health implications of mobile phone technology. He said that the main conclusions on health effects suggested that exposure to RF radiation below guidelines did not cause adverse health effects to the general population. Some evidence suggested biological effects could occur at exposures below guidelines, but that biological effects did not necessarily result in health effects. He felt that the gaps in knowledge justified a precautionary approach until more detailed and robust information was available.
He said there were other possible indirect effects on well-being in some cases - for instance, from using either hand-held or hands-free phones whilst driving. However people appeared to accept these risks while being very anxious about other risks to health. Epidemiological evidence currently did not suggest that RF exposure caused cancer and biological evidence did not suggest that RF fields caused mutation, or initiated or promoted tumours. However, mobile phones had not been in use long enough to allow comprehensive assessment of impact on health and the possibility of an association between mobile phone use and risk of cancer could not be excluded. Therefore continued research was necessary.
He said that conclusions of more recent research published since Sir William Stewart’s Report in 2001 did not give cause for any further concern. Other reports on mobile phones and health suggested that adverse effects remained unproven but that subtle biological effects were possible. He said that the precautionary approach was advocated in the meantime.
129. Members of the Committee were invited to put questions to the speakers:-
Do Local Planning Authorities need to take into account other masts in the area when considering a mobile phone mast application?
Yes, it has to include a reference to other masts by recording measurements within the vicinity and demonstrating compliance with planning law.
How will the Telecommunications Planning Control Bill second reading in March affect the way we deal with planning applications?
If it became law, then Waverley BC would need to comply. The operators also replied that if it became law, then they would also need to co-operate but that it was rare that a private members bill became law. The ODPM were doing some research in the next few months to see how technology was moving forward.
Has any basic research been conducted to establish whether different frequencies might affect the proteins which control cell replication? Is it reasonable to suppose some people might be more susceptible to different frequencies?
There is a lot of research being carried out into cell replication. Some effects on replication have been found and even damage to DNA. On susceptibility, because the technology was relatively new, it was difficult to say conclusively whether some people might be more susceptible than others. University of Essex psychologists were carrying out research which was examining people who were claiming to be susceptible. This included double blind studies and the results would be published in the next six months.
Will the use of mobile phones and siting of masts be a health concern in the long term?
Radio frequencies have been around for many years and if there was no evidence of ill effects over 120 years then it seemed reasonable to presuppose there would be no effect in the next 20 years. The Mobile Phone Industry supported further research and would comply with existing regulations to ensure it is operated safely.
If humans have different susceptibilities, then should we have a moratorium on expansion until research has been done?
Operators asked where a moratorium would stop, for example would aerials on rooftops be included? They felt it was better to involve residents properly and use local democracy to resolve issues.
Are the various mobile phone companies communicating to achieve joint sites to locate these masts away from schools and housing? What about the long term expansion?
The operators replied that ideas for expansion were being developed all the time although not necessarily all would come to fruition. There was a lot of research but the systems were not developed yet and technology kept changing. The five mobile phone operators had different licence applications and a site sharing database had to be used and was monitored by ODPM. The operators were obliged to send in annual roll-out plans which could be used for information sharing. The operators were often looking for site sharing opportunities, but needed to communicate with residents to make it work.
Is BT still looking at a system known as ‘Open City’ for all five operators to share?
Yes, it could be a solution for urban areas but other operators have their own solutions for urban areas. The Open City was another tool which could be used but it was not a complete solution.
What about non-health concerns, for example environmental and visual impact? And what about areas of bad coverage?
Poor coverage was usually caused by congestion and the operators carried out drive testing to see which areas were good or bad at different times of day. The radio test was routinely carried out and included with planning applications. Most operators had UK coverage but even some areas of Waverley were not covered. On environment issues, the operators said that ‘tree masts’ had been popular in some areas but that some residents did not want them.
130. The Chairman asked non ELOS Members for their questions:-
There is enormous commercial pressure in the investment in 3G – how is the risk managed?
The issue of risk was raised about payment for 2G in the 1990s, but eventually this had become a commercial success. The Operators’ view was that, in time, so would 3G. .
Councillors have often felt unable to be involved in consultation in the past because of ethical framework constraints.
Operators accepted that Councillors should not be expected to express opinion on the merits or otherwise of mast proposals but suggested they could get views from residents or put Operators in touch with residents’ groups to facilitate debate. This would mean they could retain the right to determine applications later.
131. The Chairman thanked the speakers for their presentations and the officers for their work in organising the meeting. He said a report would now be drawn up and discussed at the next meeting on 17th January 2005.*
The meeting concluded at 9.37pm
*NB. Following discussion with the Chairman subsequently, it has been agreed to hold a special meeting to discuss the report on this issue on 31st January 2006.