Abbey Labour city councillors have hit out at ‘unfair’ planning policies which permit global telecom companies to place huge new 5G phone masts near residential locations without going through, in most cases, the formal consultation process expected for even the most minor of renovations for existing buildings and houses.
Phone networks are rolling out 5G coverage in Cambridge and have the legal right to place masts in various locations across the city, including near residential areas. Vodafone are in the process of erecting a 20-metre-tall new mast on the corner of Newmarket Road and Wadloes Road near McDonald’s.
Councillors recognise that local communities will want access to high-speed 5G. But they are concerned that the networks have the ability – given to them by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition Government several years ago – to obtain consent to place masts across Cambridge with little scrutiny. This is because phone masts are judged to be ‘critical national infrastructure’.
Permitted development rights also allow developers to convert former office blocks into tiny homes, like with Murdoch House in Abbey, without full scrutiny.
Cllr Nicky Massey says:
“As with the recent example of the Jesus Green mast, where the networks were able to go through the so-called ‘permitted development’ route to propose an unsuitable location, the current approach taken by these companies for these kinds of applications makes it hard, if not impossible, for councils to decline consent.
“It is an unfair process. But it’s legal. Therefore, in my view, the existing ‘permitted development’ regime requires reform. It can’t be that the installation of a dormer window is more likely to be rejected than a massive phone mast.”
The councillors have written to the firm undertaking the work on behalf of Vodafone requesting that the height of the mast be lowered to a more appropriate level.