Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Planning needs to be local

That was an easy conclusion after the farce of this morning's Ridgeway mobile phone mast decision in Badger Farm. Two dozen local residents gathered to voice their objections to an unwanted Vodafone mast a few metres from their homes. An assortment of Winchester Planning Development Control Committee members, under the guise of the Telecoms Planning Sub Committee, listened to residents (and to me) and ignored everything they heard.

The officer's advice to approve was confirmed by 4 votes to one, the dissenting voice being my colleague Karen Barratt. So why should they have rejected this?
1. The application was a mess. The sketch provided by Vodafone was misleading and the Vodafone representative managed to say that the existing mast site on Badger Farm Road was both perfectly viable and impossible. No one pressed him on this apparent contradication.
2. The mast will be out of character with the area. Vodafone will helpfully disguise it as telegraph pole, making it the only telegraph pole on the entire estate. Clever eh?
3. The officer's recommendation to accept was accompanied by the proviso that it was "subject to demonstration". No demonstration of the height took place. Coupled with the misleading sketch this meant that the committee guessed the height of the mast and its visual impact when making their decision. That's right...they GUESSED.
4. Local people didn't want it. I know that's not a planning consideration, after all the phone companies paid a lot of money to the government for 3G licences and wouldn't want NIMBYs getting in the way.

So Badger Farm has an ugly, unwanted phone mast foisted on it by a sub-committee comprising councillors from Shedfield, Kings Worthy, Owslebury and Weeke, with a dissenting vote from Fulflood.

Planning affects communities and needs to be as far as possible in the hands of those communities and the members that are locally elected by them, not people who may well never visit the Ridgeway again.
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