South Woodford 5G mast application rejected

Redbridge Council has rejected an application to install a 15m 5G mast after hundreds of people complained.

More than 400 residents and two ward councillors from opposing parties objected to the plans to install the mast on South View Drive, next to the locally-listed Holy Trinity Church in South Woodford.

Members of the council’s planning committee, who met on July 16, criticised officers for failing to take the application and the impact on residents – many of whom raised health concerns – “seriously”.

There is no evidence that 5G is unsafe. Because 5G requires more base stations, each one can run at a lower power level than previous 4G masts, meaning radiation exposure is lower.

Cllr Beverley Brewer (Lab, South Woodford) told the committee the local community has “delivered a clear verdict” on the “visually intrusive and unacceptably prominent” mast.

She said she had received around 1,800 contacts a day for weeks from “very concerned and very distressed residents”.

She said: “I urge you to scrutinise the proposals carefully and I hope you will agree that the plans as they stand can’t be permitted.”

The council also heard representations from residents, including Darren McGrath, whose house is 30 metres from the site.

He told the committee the mast “would be detrimental to the local architecture” and was “not appropriate to the scale of buildings in the neighbourhood”.

A statement from John Cassidy, who has run a nursery in Holy Trinity Church for 20 years, suggested worried parents might withdraw their children due to health fears, possibly forcing it to close.

Councillors on the committee expressed their frustration that a site visit was only conducted on the previous Saturday and felt alternative sites had not been properly considered.

Cllr Vanisha Solanki (Lab, Fullwell) said: “I think this application has not been taken seriously by our officers.

“It really does not resonate with me, we are talking about the livelihoods of residents here.”

Cllr Gurdial Bhamra (Lab, Clayhall) agreed: “I do not think that the application has been properly examined, it appears to me that it was not done professionally.

“The mast would be overbearing for the environment and it’s too near to residential properties.”

Cllr Paul Canal (Con, Bridge) added that he felt there were “many obvious alternative [sites] in the area” that had not been properly considered.

Cllr Duffell (Con, South Woodford) pointed out the site visit only took place on his request and criticised the applicant for failing to attend the meeting

The council’s head of planning and building control Brett Leahy responded to councillors’ criticisms by explaining central Government limits how local authorities can consider applications for 5G masts.

The government has invested billions towards achieving its manifesto promise of full-fibre coverage across the UK by 2025.

While Chinese company Huawei is not listed as the applicant or mentioned in the report, Cllr Brewer did describe the proposal as a “Huawei mast”.

On Tuesday (July 14), it was announced that the company is banned from Britain’s 5G network due to geopolitical tensions with the US and that all UK mobile providers must remove the firm’s kit from their networks by 2027.

The applicant has the option to appeal to the planning inspectorate to overturn the decision.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter