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Raynes Park and West Barnes Residents' Association
Serving the community since 1928

Chairman's Notes, September 2005

Mobile phone masts

We seem to be inundated in our area with applications from telecommunications operators to put up phone masts. There have been four applications in the last year, and I may have missed some. I find the planning position as to these to be really confusing, and Iím sure that most residents do too. So I have written to the Director of Planning to try and get some clarity as to the position.

I was tipped off about the last application by a lady living in Berrylands which backs on to the Messines Playing Fields. Residents there have been "consulted" about an application to install three antennae at a height of 15 metres on an existing 18 metre floodlight tower. The guidance note sent to residents makes for confusing reading, since the application is not for planning permission, but for "prior approval", which is stated to be an entirely separate consent. Planning permission is only required if the mast exceeds 15 metres or is located in a conservation area or on a listed building. But apparently operators need to apply for the Councilís prior approval of details in relation to the position and appearance of the mast. This distinction from planning permission escapes me. The Council cannot refuse consent on a mast on health grounds, and, yet, if an application is near to a school, both the applicant and the Council must notify the head of the school.

Although the High Court has ruled that there is no evidence that such masts cause damage to health on radiological grounds, people are not convinced, and those with young children are especially fearful. Who, for example, would want to live under an electricity pylon, or near a nuclear power station, even if the risk of leukaemia is said to be slight. Can we be certain that there are no health risks associated with phone masts, when we are told to limit the time we use our mobile phones, to hold them off our ears, and not to allow young children to use them. Why does every operator need its own mast? Surely the government should put pressure on the telecommunications industry to share facilities.

The Association has opposed every application that has been made and will continue to do so, even though we recognise that all the power rests with the industry.

Postal services

Why is it, when the Royal Mail is said to have had its best year of profit for years, that the service gets worse? My post now arrives very late in the morning, and the days of having two deliveries in the day are long gone. In the days of Sherlock Holmes, a letter could be posted anywhere in London in the morning for a delivery the same day. We pay a lot extra for a first class stamp, but with no guarantee whatever of delivery the next day. I regularly receive important documents sent together on the same day by first class post, which are delivered in stages over the next three days. There is no apology or attempt to justify the lack of next day delivery. Guaranteed next day delivery costs even more, and you have to go to a post office to obtain it.

But you wonít be able to go to Wimbledon to do so, since the main post office there has closed and there are no firm plans, as opposed to promises, to restore it. The post office in Compton Road was heavily used. When it was closed, we were promised an equivalent service, but that, too, has now closed. Why cannot a service industry, with a virtual monopoly such as the Royal Mail currently has, do better? I suspect that it is because its customers have no choice; and so its managers have no incentive to do better and provide the first class service for which we pay.

John Elvidge