Vicar defends phone mast plan at church

A VICAR has defended plans to allow a mobile phone mast to be attached to the tower of his 13th Century church, against the wishes of nearby residents.

A VICAR has defended plans to allow a mobile phone mast to be attached to the tower of his 13th Century church, against the wishes of nearby residents.

Despite health concerns voiced by people living around Acton's All Saints Church, near Sudbury, Rev John Fieldgate says the decision will bring in much needed funds and claims the risks are "minimal".

Concerns are also rising over a plan to introduce a second mobile phone mast on the nearby Woodhall Business Park, on the edge of Sudbury's Springlands housing estate.

Babergh District Council's development committee recently approved an application by mobile phone company Orange to place an aerial on top of the church.

The mast will replace a seven-metre-high flagpole on the tower of the Grade I listed church.

Mr Fieldgate said: "Some of the residents did oppose this scheme, but I think the health risks are minimal and I live closer too it than anyone.

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"There has been a lot of research into this issue and I really do not believe the residents have anything to worry about. The mast will be disguised as a flagpole and will be designed in such a way that we can still fly the flag.

"This agreement will bring in much needed funds to keep the church running. We will receive an annual amount from Orange for the next five years. The annual sum will be in the thousands rather than the hundreds."

Orange has also submitted a second plan to introduce a eight-metre-high mast on the Woodhall Business Park and it is currently being considered by Babergh District Council.

Although the mast will be concealed within a lamppost design, Sudbury councillor Sylvia Cann says she has serious concerns over the plans.

She said: "This mast would be next to a massive housing estate and close to two schools and I think we need to take precautions. We are still not sure over the health issues of these masts and it is not right to put one in an area that could affect so many people until we do.

"Although it is not in my ward, I think the decision to put one on top of a church is despicable. This has been agreed purely to put money in the church coffers and it is not right."

Fellow Sudbury councillor John Sayers has told residents on the Springland's estate to contact Babergh and urge the authority to throw out the plans.

Babergh's head of planning Richard Watson said: "The advice we have from Government is that these masts should meet set international guidelines and we do not consider the safety issue any further than that."

He said the authority was still considering the application on the Woodhall Business Park.

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