VIDEO: Sedgeford divided over 60ft mast plan

A group of residents has demanded protection for their village’s playing field after plans for a telecommunications mast, measuring nearly 60 feet high, were submitted.

Community leaders have defended their handling of the proposal for the site in Jarvie Close, Sedgeford, insisting that improved phone and internet connections are urgently needed.

Surrounded by Sedgeford residents Lynda Green-smith and Jim Worley (centre) point to the site of the proposed telecommunications mast on the village playing field ANL-150819-145939001

Surrounded by Sedgeford residents Lynda Green-smith and Jim Worley (centre) point to the site of the proposed telecommunications mast on the village playing field ANL-150819-145939001

They also say that an overwhelming majority of residents backed the idea in a survey carried out by councillors themselves.

And parish council vice-chairman Sue Crump said she had to allow a holidaymaker to use her home phone earlier this week so she could let her family know she had arrived safely.

She said: “That sort of thing is happening all the time.”

But opponents claim their own assessment of public opinion has shown widespread opposition to the plan.

They want the site to be protected under the national Fields in Trust programme in a bid to prevent any development of the area.

One of them, Lynda Green-Smith, said: “It’s for the young and the families who use it.”

North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said he would be looking into the issue, but added that the parish council’s judgement of planning issues was “usually very sound”.

Plans to build a 17.5 metre high mast, around 57 feet, with six antennae, have been submitted to West Norfolk Council.

Documents submitted with the application say it is part of a government-funded programme to improve coverage in areas that are known to have poor mobile phone coverage, called ‘not spots.’

But objectors claim residents were not properly notified of meetings where the proposal was due to be discussed.

Mrs Green-Smith she had submitted a formal complaint about the parish council’s handling of the issue, adding: “We don’t believe their code of conduct has been followed.”

But Ms Crump insisted the meetings were properly publicised, while an additional item was also placed in the village’s newsletter to advertise a presentation by developers Arqiva.

She added that 281 residents who took part in a survey conducted by councillors themselves supported the idea, with only 39 against.

Ms Crump said the poll was based on the village’s electoral roll and showed that over 60 per cent of residents supported the plan, even when non-participants’ views were taken into account.

But objectors have begun their own survey, which Mrs Green-Smith said had so far shown overwhelming opposition, with 100 people objecting and only five in support.

Critics are also worried about the potential health risks of the proposal and claim that more suitable sites for a mast are available in the village and elsewhere.

Resident Jim Worley, whose home backs onto the playing field, said: “I would consider moving. I couldn’t have that anxiety all the time.”

However, Ms Crump said the playing field site had been assessed as the most suitable, even though a minority of homes would not see their coverage improved.

She added that, although scientists have warned that further research is needed, no studies have so far determined a health risk from masts.