10. Currently parallel with the separate establishment of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh which now has responsibility for the majority of issues affecting people living in Scotland over one third of all Scottish Local Planning Authorities have now adopted or publicly committed themselves to adopting Precautionary Policies as a direct result of what they perceive to be inadequate official advice from Government Departments.
11. Local Authorities in Scotland have decided that there are too many unanswered questions to risk exposing the Public needlessly to levels of microwave radiation which could or may in time prove to be harmful to their health.
By choosing to keep transmitter masts away from schools and residential areas local authorities are not doing anything radical, but merely following the Precautionary Approach advocated in the European Treaties, accepted by the UK Government in 1993 at Maastricht.
England and Wales
12. Similarly the influential Local Government Association (LGA) has now advised its member local authorities to adopt the Precautionary Approach on the basis that the decision making process of the Governments Advisory Body the NRPB, based upon waiting for ‘conclusive scientific evidence’ before acting, is potentially flawed. On 12th August 1999 the Local Government Association accused the Government of `dithering’ over the potential danger of cancer and radiation from mobile phone masts.
The LGA Planning Executive Chairman Stated,
“The Government must stop dithering and give councils some clear guidance to the threat posed by Radiation and the planning powers to keep the Public Safe — especially vulnerable children and the elderly rather than wait two or three years until the research is finished”.
These statements were made in August 1999 after the Government issued on 23rd July 1999 letters to the LGA and Members of Parliament which failed to help authorities make the right planning decisions or offer them guidance on where masts can be safely erected.
13. All this has come about after the senior representatives of the NRPB gave their evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee in June 1999 explaining firstly that the NRPB under its statutory legislation could only base its guidance and advice on ‘conclusive scientific evidence’ as required by its Act of Parliament, and that accordingly until essential research had been carried out in their opinion the only “conclusive scientific proof” related to the properties of thermal heating on which their 1993 Safety Guidelines remained solely based.
Secondly however the representatives of the NRPB made it clear that until the freshly commissioned research produced some ‘conclusive scientific proof’ that there were other effects apart from thermal heating, it was up to Politicians and Planners to exercise their ‘own’ judgment.
14. On 1st September 1999 Belfast City Council ratified the 18th August 1999 Decision of its Development Committee that ‘no Transmitter Masts should be permitted on any Council Property’, due firstly to the unknown risks from such masts and secondly because of ‘substantial public concern.’
Similarly Wyre Borough Council in Lancashire recently decided that the proposed site for a mast and base station was unsuitable given its proximity to a nearby primary school and houses which were 190 meters and 40 meters away respectively.
This refusal was based on public fears about possible health risks posed by microwave radiation. This follows the 1998 Court of Appeal decision finding that ‘genuine public fear and concern is a material planning consideration, even if that fear is irrational and not based upon evidence — see Newport BC v Secretary of State for Wales (1998) JPL 377.
The answer for the time being is Prudent Avoidance and Common Sense, at least until properly structured research has been concluded, and then independently assessed. The answer is not to listen only to the Industry, who have tended to ensure that the Industry Commissioned research proves their point on safety. Currently prudence advocates that reliance on the NRPB Guidelines is no longer sufficient.
Many independent University researchers who have produced adverse results have had their research funds curtailed, or taken away which stifles further investigation of adverse effects shown by earlier research. Governments are elected to be aware of what is going on, and to protect the public at large when uncertainties exist, and prudent avoidance should currently prevail over commercial interests until the further essential research has been completed and “independently” assessed.
HALSEY MEYER HIGGINS
Cuba, Havana (Habana)
Anchorage, Alaska, USA
Congo (Kinshasa), Kinshasa
Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
Click on any of the pictures below
to learn more