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Wednesday, 24 January, 2001, 12:59 GMT
Chaos predicted over phone masts
Mast near houses
The executive wants to change the regulations
A lawyer has predicted planning chaos when mobile phone masts come under the full control of Scotland's local authorities.

New guidelines giving councils more powers over the building of masts were proposed by the Scottish Executive last year.

But one leading lawyer has predicted that the extra work generated by the move could bring the planning system to a grinding halt.

The executive has underestimated the level of passionate objection against masts

Alastair McKie
Alastair McKie also believes that the number of masts may need to quadruple to meet the demands of the third generation of mobile phones.

Planning officials and mobile phone operators attended a conference in Glasgow on Monday to seek solutions to avert the predicted chaos.

Under the executive proposals, all new ground-based mobile phone masts will be subject to full planning control. At present, only those above a certain height need planning permission.

'Planning chaos'

Communities will also have the right to be consulted and there will be careful scientific monitoring of masts sited close to schools and hospitals.

The construction of masts has prompted a series of protests from communities in several parts of Scotland.

However, Mr McKie has warned that "planning chaos" is likely if the executive's proposals go ahead.

An upsurge in mast applications is expected
"If these proposals are put into practical effect then both the industry and objectors will be engaging fully with the planning system as each mast will be subject to a planning application," he said.

"The executive has underestimated the level of passionate objection against masts, particularly in urban locations."

He said the roll-out of the third generation of mobile phones, providing internet access, could see the number of masts required increase fourfold.

And he also warned that human rights legislation could give objectors the right to appeal decisions - and even threaten the executive's right to make planning decisions.

Representatives of Glasgow City Council, Vodafone and the Planning Exchange were due to take part in Monday's conference.

The public have four weeks left to comment on the executive's proposals.

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See also:

06 Dec 00 | Scotland
MP urges halt to new phone masts
24 Nov 00 | Scotland
New curbs on mobile masts
27 Oct 00 | Scotland
Villagers' mobile mast pledge
30 Jun 00 | Health
Phone mast fears dismissed
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