Friends of Hartley Countryside
17 July 2002
Telecommunications mast, Downs Valley, Hartley. Reference SE/02/01401/FUL
The Friends of Hartley Countryside are a local environmental group, and we are writing to express our dismay at this proposal which would severely affect the amenity value of this green space.
It is important too, to realise how close this site is to residential property. This is not a copse in the middle of farmland, but is close to many houses from which it will be visible. There are some 100 properties within 250m of the site, including a retirement home and school.
We would like to object on the following grounds:
- Local Plan GB2 creates the basic assumption that this will be inappropriate development and there are no special circumstances in this case to override this. PPG8 paragraph 17 also starts from this viewpoint. I am told Orange's own publicity claims that Hartley is an area of good reception for their phones!
- Can it be assumed that you do intend to refuse this application, because you have not issued the publicity required by article 8(3)(b) of the Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) Order 1995 for departure applications? Given paragraph 6.11 of the District Plan this application cannot be viewed otherwise.
- Local Plan GB4 stresses that Green Belt developments must "avoid detriment to visual amenity". By their nature these masts tower above the tree line, in this case by up to 30 feet, and this will be especially apparent in winter because most of the trees in the copse are deciduous. This is further supported by paragraph 6.19 of the District Plan which states "In all respects... the visual amenities of the Green Belt should not be injured by proposals for development within or conspicuous from the Green Belt...".
This application falls foul of many of the environmental considerations in the District Plan. The lattice type of construction is very visually obtrusive (a point acknowledged in your report to committee on SE/02/0295, paragraph 3.15) and the large compound exceeding 1,500 square feet will together have a devastating effect on the amenity woodland and the large surrounding area. In particular:
Other material considerations (Section 55A, Town and Country Planning Act 1990)
- Local Plan paragraph 4.2(vi) makes it an objective to "protect trees and woodlands of amenity value". While paragraph 4.2(xi) talks of protecting "the landscape setting of the ... villages ... their green wedges, open spaces.... trees".
- Policy EN1 is not being complied with. It will harm local amenity both in Hartley and a substantial swathe of the Fawkham Valley, by its height and intrusive lattice form (para (3)). On the ground there is likely to be unacceptable and material damage to local flora and fauna. This is reiterated in policies EN11, EN12A, EN17C and EN29. The copse is the subject of TPO/74/03/DR. I understand that TPOs usually forbid lopping as well as felling.
- Its height above the trees will potentially cause loss of amenity through noise which has been determined as a material consideration (Leeds case).
- It is especially intrusive in the case of Downs Valley, where there is no existing street furniture such as telegraph poles.
- This wood is on the border of the area of local landscape importance, and once again the presumption against this development is emphasised by policy EN7.
- The mast is likely to affect the vista which includes Fawkham Church and the Baldwins Green Conservation Area, which is contrary to policies EN18 and EN21.
- The applicants have hardly begun to comply with policy EN29. Their would be landlords are major local landowners, and yet only one other site is referred to on page 2 of supplementary information, hardly fulfilling the requirement of EN29(2) and PPG 8 (paras 19-23). We would also submit that the pollarding of at least 2 trees required to install the apparatus equates to loss of mature trees (EN29(3)).
The mast is very close to the Old Downs retirement home, the retirement housing of Sandshaw Court and Steephill School. You will be aware that the government wrote to your chief executive on 29 June 2000 (letter from Nick Raynsford of DETR), stressing that councils should adopt the precautionary principle and that masts should not be too close to schools and retirement homes (see "Poles Apart" Solicitor's Journal 3 Aug 2001, p 722). There are signs at an existing mast in Fawkham to warn of possible effects on heart pacemakers.
There is widespread local concern about the unproven effects to health from this base station, which can be a material consideration (PPG 8, paragraph 29 and recent judgement in Court of Appeal by Lord Justice Shiemann). It is well known that the Stewart Report did not deal with all the potential risks to health, for example biological effects.
Given that the case for the mast is very flimsy, has the council considered the effect of article 8 and First Protocol article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights? The effect of the incorporation of the Human Rights Convention means that local authorities can no longer claim that affect on property values and local businesses is not a material consideration.
We trust that our views will be taken into consideration when taking your decision and we look forward to hearing from you.