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Fortwilliam Action Committee
17th September 2001
PRESS RELEASE



BT PLANS PHONE MAST FOR SOMERTON CONSERVATION AREA

A mobile phone base station proposed for the Somerton Road Conservation Area has provoked outrage amongst residents. 

The Fortwilliam Action Committee (FAC) says Antrim Road residents are prepared to wage a campaign against BT Cellnet’s proposal for a mast on the Lansdowne Court Hotel.  The Committee expects the Planning Office to be inundated with letters of objection before the closing date on Friday.

Mr Cye Bannon, deputy chairman of FAC, said that there is widespread concern about the health aspects of these base stations and masts and that the local community was enraged at BT’s latest attempt to site such equipment within the area,  “This application would suggest BT cares little for local opinion – the company could not have failed to notice the extent of opposition voiced against its attempts to erect a mast on the Somerton Road earlier this year.  This new site at the Lansdowne Court Hotel is just around the corner, close to three local schools and adjacent to a church hall used daily for after-school activities by young local children - let alone the fact that it is within the conservation area.” 



He continued, “The health effects of this new technology are not yet fully understood and may take as long as twenty years to emerge.  ICNIRP guidelines on radiation levels are said to provide adequate protection to people living beside masts yet even at power levels well below these guidelines there are documented biological effects ranging from headaches, short-term memory loss, sleep disturbance, immune system degradation to blood/brain barrier permeability and brain electrochemical effects.  As a precaution, masts and base stations should not be sited in densely populated areas such as the Antrim Road.”

The FAC believes planning policy is still weighted in favour of the telecommunication companies and that possible adverse health effects are not properly considered, “Insufficient research and scientific evidence has created a climate of confusion, fear and worry which in itself could be detrimental to health.  We believe planning policy must address a respect for private and family life and the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions as set out by the Human Rights Act 1998.”

In April this year the Environment Committee of the NI Assembly recommended government should acknowledge the significant gaps in scientific knowledge about the health impact of non-thermal radiofrequency emissions from masts.  It said the new stipulation for masts to undergo the full planning process had not gone far enough and the Department of Environment should actively support rigorous precautionary measures within the planning legislation, pending the outcome of current investigations into the health effects of these emissions by the Stewart Group. The Stewart Group is not expected to report its findings until 2002/2003.

Fortwilliam Action Committee was formed in February 2001 when over 100 local residents came together to oppose an application by BT for a mobile phone mast on the Somerton Road.  Since then, the committee has been actively campaigning for the protection and improvement of the area.