5G phone mast approved at Keynsham school despite wave of objections

Plans for a controversial 5G phone mast in the grounds of Broadlands Academy in Keynsham have been approved.

On 20th May last year, local councillor Brian Simmons asked for the proposal to be called in to be dealt with by Bath & North East Somerset Council’s planning committee, rather than be decided by a planning officer.

The plans finally got the go-ahead from the council last Wednesday, with both the delegated report recommending approval and the decision notice published on the same day.

Both the planning committee chair Cllr Sue Craig and vice chair Cllr Sally Davis said the decision could be delegated to planning officers as the application had been assessed against relevant planning policies and some points raised by objecftors were not a planning consideration.

Vodafone and Telefonica UK Ltd (O2) applied in April last year to replace the current 4G 15-metre mast (17.9 metres to the top of the antennas) with one measuring 20 metres at the top of the six antennas. The scheme includes a microwave dish, remote radio units and new equipment within the existing cabin.

Some people living near the school in St Francis Road were only made aware of the plans by a 5G protest group handing out leaflets in the area.  The plans prompted more than 160 objections, with Keynsham Town Council blasting B&NES Council for falling in its duty to consult the academy community and nearby residents about the proposed 5G mast on the campus.

At the time the town council said the 5G mast would be an “incongruous and overbearing structure”, adding:: “In respect of health implications from microwave radiation emissions, this matter needs to be fully investigated by B&NES Council as the landlord of the school land. A suggestion is made that there should be a consultation with the new director of public health to ascertain the impact that this proposal could have not only on those within the school community (and) the wider neighbourhood, but the town as a whole.”

The town council also said: “It is believed that the local authority (B&NES) has failed in its duty to consult with all concerned on such an important development proposal. The school itself, parents/carers of pupils within the school and all neighbouring properties were not consulted initially and it took requests made to the planning department by local residents before a consultation letter was sent out to the wider community.”

The town council highlighted that B&NES Council’s letter hadn’t mention that the mast would be 5G and that it arrived 10 days into the extended consultation period, adding: “The full impact of this application needs to be considered very carefully…there is already talk within the community of parents/carers removing children from school should the application be granted.”

B&NES also received eight letters of support for the application.

The report by B&NES planning officers  was finally published last week and said the replacement mast would not have a significant adverse visual impact above and beyond the existing mast.

It also said: “In the absence of a clear consensus of opinion from the conservation sector and scientific communities at the national or global levels raising concerns regarding ecological impacts of electromagnetic radiation, an ecological objection at the local level in this case on grounds of potential risk to wildlife arising from electromagnetic radiation would be difficult to justify and defend.”

However, with a mast already in place, they report said  the scheme could be considered to be appropriately located to avoid and minimise risks to ecology and is considered unlikely to have any significant impacts on local wildlife.

The report also said that in light of the compliance with International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection guidelines, the proposals will not have any significant impacts upon human health

Responding to concerns over the consultation process, the report noted that 54 neighbouring properties had been consulted, including all properties adjoining the school.

Broadlands Academy has been run by the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) since 2012. In a letter to parents last year the trust said the current mast pre-dated AET’s involvement and brought n a very small amount of annual rent.

The trust added that removing the mast from this location would be “legally incredibly challenging”.

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