Protests loom over phone mast plans

Phone Mast protest: Anne Elsdon, front-left, with protestors in Dore who are unhappy at the proposals of a phone mast which will tower higher than a large tree on Causeway Head Road
Phone Mast protest: Anne Elsdon, front-left, with protestors in Dore who are unhappy at the proposals of a phone mast which will tower higher than a large tree on Causeway Head Road
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Britain’s biggest mobile phone companies are planning to install 65 new masts in Sheffield to provide coverage for a new generation of communication gadgets, The Star has discovered.

In a bid to provide better coverage for iPhones, BlackBerries and other ‘smart phones’, O2 and Vodafone have joined forces to submit planning applications for 36 new masts in just the last 12 months, writes Ben Spencer.

According to documents seen by The Star, the companies are also planning a further 29 applications as they bid to gain advantage in the telecommunications market.

Two Sheffield communities, concerned about potential health and visual impacts, have already launched fierce campaigns against proposals for masts in their parts of the city.

More than 600 residents have signed a petition against plans for a 15m mast on Causeway Head Road in Dore.

Anne Elsdon, of Dore Village Society, said: “The idea of putting a huge pole right in the centre of the village is appalling. They want to put it in a very prominent situation, which will really damage the landscape.”

Daniel Gage, Conservative candidate for the Dore and Totley ward in May’s local election, added: “Something of this scale should be subject to local scrutiny before any decisions are made.”

Around 60 residents have objected to a plan for another mast on Button Hill in Millhouses - described by one objector as “one of the most beautiful of Sheffield’s residential suburbs”.

Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg has written to planning officers to highlight constituents’ concerns about the safety of children at four nearby primary schools and the visual impact.

Vodafone and O2 recently signed an agreement to share resources in their attempt to increase mobile phone coverage in large cities like Sheffield.

Documents submitted to Sheffield Council reveal the two companies are planning to install 65 base stations across the city - each comprising a mast, antenna and equipment cabinet.

The companies need council planning permission only for masts taller than 15m, or those in conservation areas.

Of their 36 applications submitted in the last 12 months, 22 have been approved, seven refused and seven are pending consideration. The firms are also planning installations at 29 further sites and are installing up-to-date equipment at scores of existing sites.

The new masts will all work at the high frequency spectrum used by third generation ‘3G’ phones designed to connect to the internet.

A Vodafone spokeswoman said: “Our customers expect to be able to use their mobiles and devices where they live, work and travel.

“We recognise some communities are concerned regarding the deployment of radio base stations close to residential areas, but without radio base stations mobile phones will not be able to work.”

* Check out the planned sites for the Vodaphone/O2 masts - visit the link below.

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