'System failure' caused phone mast error

PLANNING officers in an Essex town have apologised after a “system failure” left councillors unable to throw out plans to build a controversial mobile phone mast.

Elliot Furniss

PLANNING officers in an Essex town have apologised after a “system failure” left councillors unable to throw out plans to build a controversial mobile phone mast.

Last week it emerged that Colchester Borough Council had missed the deadline to overrule a recommendation to allow the mast to be built by two days.

The 12-metre O2 UK mast is now set to be constructed at the junction of Lexden Road and Norman Way, close to St Mary's School, Colchester County High School for Girls and St Benedict's College, all of which fiercely oppose the plan.


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Apologies have now been made to those campaigning against the mast for the “regrettable systems failure” that allowed the cut-off date to be missed.

Vincent Pearce, planning services manager for the council, apologised in person to concerned residents and school representatives on Thursday evening during a planning committee meeting at the Town Hall.

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Yesterday, Roger Bailey, the council's interim head of planning, said the error had caused “quite a storm” and that officers were now working hard with O2 to find a solution.

He also said the system used by the department had been reviewed and Lyn Barton, the cabinet member for planning and regeneration, was being kept in touch about all changes being made.

He said: “O2 are very well aware of the local public opposition to the mast and have been very helpful so far in trying to find an alternative location for it.

“Five sites have been put forward and are being technically evaluated and considered.

“It may well be that the five sites don't meet the requirements. O2 are not under the cosh to get something on site and have been very co-operative in agreeing not to start work.”

Sonia Lewis, a councillor for the Lexden ward, said she was encouraged by the officers' actions and she hoped an alternative spot could be found soon.

She said: “It's a ray of hope. I have been very optimistic since I knew O2 were in consultation with planning officers.

“They (the planning officers) have been open and honest.”

The council received 500 letters of objection to the mast but after throwing out the application on January 22 - despite it being recommended for approval - it emerged that they had exceeded the deadline by 48 hours.

James Stevenson, communications manager for O2, has said the firm is quite willing to work with the council if an alternative location can be found.

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