Thursday, February 05, 2004
Pact ends mobile phone rows with national parks
The Guardian: "The 'treaty of best practice' commits the Mobile Operators' Association, all 13 national parks and the Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to work together and avoid legal battles, and involves concessions by all parties.
'The national parks have won some [battles], the masts have won some and lawyers have won them all,' said Mick Casey of the Lake District national park, where furious rows have taken place over masts proposed for felltops or close to Wordsworth shrines such as Dove Cottage.
The accord acknowledges that local pressure for conservation has been balanced increasingly by people wanting their mobile phones to work, including fell rescue teams who use them in searches and to email injured climbers' medical data to hospitals.
Martin Fitton, the chief executive of the Association of National Park Authorities, said: 'People living in and visiting national parks want the same communication services as the rest of the country. This gives us all a great challenge to make provision without damaging our finest landscapes.'
The agreement binds operators to hold preliminary discussions with planning consultants, national park officers and other interested parties before preparing a provisional plan for new masts. The five network operators - 3, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone - have also agreed to share masts if possible and put more money into new designs.
'Material which is permeable by radio waves is increasingly successful,' Christine Jude of the Mobile Operators' Association said. 'You could have a mast on a Lake District farmhouse concealed by a fibreglass 'chimney' looking like the real thing. The angel on top of Guildford cathedral has a mast hidden under a fibreglass section of his robe.'
Masts have also been disguised successfully as telegraph poles in the Yorkshire Dales national park, complete with false wood-graining which has revived a Victorian decorative skill. Fake trees have been less successful."
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