Worried residents fear impact on health

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PLANNERS at Sheffield Council have received hundreds of letters raising concerns about the possible health impact of the latest wave of mobile phone masts.

Vodafone and O2 have teamed up to propose plans for 65 new mobile base stations across the city, to provide coverage for the next generation of smart phones.

The companies say there is no evidence of any health impact because the masts are very low powered, with each site effective only over a half-mile radius. But residents fear prolonged exposure to high frequency waves can create a risk of cancer, epilepsy, sleep disturbance and other illnesses.

Proposals to site a new 14-metre mast on the corner of Button Hill and Millhouses Lane have triggered concerns over the site’s proximity to four primary schools - Dobcroft Infants, Dobcroft Juniors, Mylnhurst and St Wilfrid’s.

One resident, from nearby Kingsley Park Avenue, said: “The decision to place this mast very near to these schools would seriously endanger the health of over 1,000 children who attend these schools.

“We must take a precautionary approach.”

A Vodafone spokeswoman insisted the planned masts are built in accordance with strict health rules, and will have no impact on well-being.

She said: “All our base stations are designed, built and operated in accordance with stringent international guidelines laid down by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.

“The adoption of these guidelines has the formal backing of independent bodies such as the World Health Organisation. Typical public exposures from our base stations will be many hundreds, if not thousands, of times below these guidelines.”

In 2007, phone company O2 pulled down one of its masts in Warwickshire after researchers found 31 residents nearby had developed some form of cancer. Although the company agreed to demolish the mast, it denied any links to ill-health.

Councillors, who have the final say on planning permission for some mobile phone masts, have very little power to refuse applications.

In 2004, the Government decided risks to health should not normally be taken into account in establishing where a mast is to be sited.

In a crucial test-case, then Deputy PM John Prescott decided not to oppose a decision that a phone mast should be allowed to go up within 400 yards of three primary schools in Harrogate. Harrogate Council had refused permission on health grounds, a decision supported by the Planning Inspectorate, but the decision was overturned in court.