Early on Thursday morning I was in a radio interview with Dotty McCloud, which you can listen to on the BBC website.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p09514gq (at 1:55:37)
I was invited on because of proposals by telecoms companies EE and Hutchison to relocate an existing base station from Park Street Car Park to Jesus Green. The relocation would make use of Permitted Development powers to allow for a temporary installation, and overrule City Council requests not to locate it on common land. There are concerns about the site and whether it might end up being a permanent location.
I was able to provide more information about the emergency notice under which the mast is being built, and talk more about this complex situation.
The service provider that owns the mast is in the process of identifying a new permanent location, after having had one proposed site rejected by the Council’s planning department on conservation grounds. An alternative location hasn’t yet been identified by EE, and they have informed the City Council of their intention to erect a temporary mast on Jesus Green so local residents have connectivity, until a permanent location is fully functional.
The provider is using 2015 legislation that gives utility companies sweeping powers and has resulted in many new large masts, including the radar at Marshalls – which local Labour councillors campaigned against along with local residents – being built without any public consultation or the agreement of local authorities. And also, in the case of Jesus Green, allowing utility companies to site a mast there without the City Council’s permission as landowner.
As you can imagine, Labour councillors are totally opposed to relocating the mast to Jesus Green or onto any of the City Council’s common land, and we’ve taken legal advice on our powers to stop this happening.
However the situation is more complicated than has been suggested by opposition councillors. As Executive Councillor, my options are severely limited by national legislation that gave telecoms companies sweeping powers to put equipment up without planning consent and to use public land without needing the Council’s agreement. We are as concerned about this as local residents.
We also have to balance the different needs in this situation. This last year has shown how important it is to stay connected. We will do everything we can to make sure that residents don’t lose that vital link to home schooling, shopping, neighbourhood support, GP services and work – as well as staying in touch with friends and family.
We don’t want to see thousands of people lose their mobile signal. But there has to be a better way than taking up valuable public space, like Jesus Green, that has been so important in the last year.
So I’m working hard to find a solution, and a permanent position for the new base station and will, as an absolute minimum, put conditions on the temporary mast to ensure there is no possibility that it becomes a permanent fixture.