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Telecommunications Masts

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:15 am on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Anne Milton Anne Milton Conservative, Guildford 10:15 am, 28th June 2005

I congratulate my hon. Friend Mr. Clifton-Brown on securing this debate. It is no surprise that the Chamber is so full, because the issue is of huge concern to everybody. In Guildford it is probably the single biggest planning issue. I think that I receive more letters about mobile phone masts than anything else. The applications rain down on us daily—and if it is not an application, it is an appeal. The concern of residents in my constituency, in places such as Bramley, Shalford and Chilworth, is that there is always either an application or an appeal going through.

The issue does not seem very complicated to me. In May 2000 Sir William Stewart called for a precautionary approach, and in January 2005 the National Radiological Protection Board, chaired by Sir William Stewart, again called for such an approach. Sir William also said:

"This approach should be adopted by all involved in this area—including government".

It appears that absolutely nothing has happened.

We need planning regulations that allow local people not only to have their say, but to have what they say listened to and acted on. Mobile phone companies put huge resources into the planning process, while local people feel that their hands are tied behind their backs. They feel disempowered and disillusioned with the whole process. The word "consultation" has been so devalued that it is held in contempt by many people, and consultation is often seen as a patronising process that allows nobody to have their voice heard. It is crucial that we allow residents' health concerns to be addressed through the planning process. Local councillors feel exactly the same. They also feel that their hands are tied behind their backs.

The balance and the presumptions in the process need to be shifted. Sir William Stewart first urged a precautionary approach in 2000, and after all this time, I urge the Government finally to address this issue.