Continuing the series in which our Clinic experts provide a guide to those thorny issues that can leave the unwary out of pocket. This week, John Winter on opposing phone masts or pylons: We live in a village on a hill and risk having our neighbourhood disfigured by phone masts and proposals for a new power line. How can we stop them? In an ideal world electricity power lines would be underground, but the cost is very high. The electricity supplier has considerable power over the siting of pylons, although significant power lines are likely to have a lengthy consultation period before construction. Mobile phone masts are installed by various companies and planners can influence decisions to a limited extent. What arguments should we use in our campaign? There are two possible grounds for objecting to a proposal for new pylons or a phone mast. One is on health grounds, the other on visual grounds. Let us look at objections on health grounds first. Many people believe that emanations from mobile phone masts and overhead electricity cables can damage health. However, there is a lack of firm evidence as to the harmful effects, so health arguments are unlikely to carry much weight. OK, what about appearance? The arguments against appearance are stronger. Few would welcome a row of pylons across a beautiful landscape. Mobile phone masts are tending to disappear as transmitters are now more often placed on convenient high buildings. However, the powers granted to the electricity supplier and the mobile phone companies are considerable and individuals are comparatively weak should they oppose a proposed structure. Not very hopeful. What if we all band together? The local authority can be expected to know of proposals in the pipeline and it is possible for a group of individuals to combine to form such an opposition group to any proposal. It is always helpful if such a group has an alternative proposal. In most cases, simply to argue “put it underground” will not get you very far. Arguments should be addressed to the Secretary of State, to the ombudsman and to the relevant electricity supplier or mobile phone operator.
John Winter runs his own architectural practice..