Telecommunications mast, Downs Valley, Hartley. Reference SE/02/02261/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. Surely it is an abuse of the planning process to send a substantially similar application? We consider that the reasons for refusing SE02/1401 apply equally to this renewed application.
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:
Council Bound by its Previous Decision
- 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! No new information has been adduced as far as we can see in the application statement, and the lack of justification was material to your previous decision ("supporting statement is lightweight in nature and does not justify large over-bearing form of development")
- 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 mast will be even more visually intrusive in the green belt than the previous application. It is taller - we understand that the existing trees are 17m in height not 25m as claimed, and a fake Scots Pine in a deciduous woodland will be totally out of place. Your decision in a recent fake pine mast application in a deciduous wood at Eynsford is highly relevant here, and there the mast was to have been about 30 feet smaller.
As you are aware, previous planning decisions for the site are material considerations. This has been reinforced by the recent South Cambridgeshire case, where the judge found that unless the character of the area had changed then the council were bound by their previous decision. This is an almost identical application, remember the mast in SE02/1401 was to be painted green.
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. I understand from the planning officer's appraisal on SE02/1401 that they agreed with the contention of local residents that trees would have to be lopped or felled.
- Its height above the trees will potentially cause loss of amenity through noise which has been determined as a material consideration (Leeds case). The effects of sleep deprivation mentioned below would also be a loss of amenity.
- 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, hardly fulfilling the requirement of EN29(2) and PPG 8 (paras 19-23). I note that this was a material consideration for your refusal of SE02/1401 ("details of only 1 other discounted site given, which given land in same ownership of application site should have been more comprehensive). 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. The owners of the Old Downs retirement home has confirmed that some of their residents have pacemakers.
I would also refer you to the article on page 4 of the Sunday Telegraph of 3 November 2002, which referred to medical studies that had found that the radiation from masts suppresses the hormone melatonin, which affects sleep patterns. This would equate to a substantial loss of amenity to local residents.
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. The health threat to sleep patterns mentioned above may well be a breach of article 8.
We trust that our views will be taken into consideration when taking your decision and we look forward to hearing from you.