Haringey Council blocks phone companies’ ‘disconcerting’ plans for 5G mast on top of Alexandra Park School

Not all parents at Alexandra Park School had been informed of the proposal. Picture: Archant

Not all parents at Alexandra Park School had been informed of the proposal. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Plans to build a 5G mobile phone mast on top of a Muswell Hill secondary school have been thrown out amid concerns that parents had not been informed.

A satellite view of the existing base station at Alexandra Park School. Picture: Google Maps

A satellite view of the existing base station at Alexandra Park School. Picture: Google Maps - Credit: Archant

Ward councillors also claim they weren't told about the proposals for a 7.5-metre roof tower, six antennae and four large dishes.

All three Lib Dem councillors for Alexandra have now called on neighbours to get in touch with their views ahead of a potential appeal.

Network operators EE and Three had applied for planning permission through their joint subsidiary, MNBL, to replace the mast on top of Alexandra Park School in April. Haringey Council rejected the plans on aesthetic grounds on June 5.

Cllr Allessandra Rossetti said: "Councillors were contacted by concerned parents on the last day of the consultation period.

"I am aware that the application mentions pre-consultation with local councillors and their lack of objections, but before last Friday we hadn't received any communication from the applicant, either via email or post.

"Parents we have been in touch with told us they were not aware of the application either."

The three Haringey Councillors for Alexandra ward, Nick da Costa, Alessandra Rossetti and Josh Dixon

The three Haringey Councillors for Alexandra ward, Nick da Costa, Alessandra Rossetti and Josh Dixon. Picture: Haringey Council - Credit: Archant

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Cllrs Josh Dixon and Nick da Costa also told the Ham&High they had not received a letter and it is understood that MNBL's correspondence to nearby Rhodes Avenue Primary School was also not received.

In its submission, the company stated: "Mobile networks are ubiquitous throughout the UK. It is an expectation that an individual can connect whenever and wherever they so require.

"As this is an existing base station and the amendments are minor in nature, this is the most preferable site. As such no other options have been considered."

It included a certificate from the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation (ICNIRP), stating the plans met EU limits on public exposure to electromagnetic fields - which were agreed in 1999.

An attached piece of promotional material stated: "It is imperative the UK prepares itself to enable this new technology and lessen the burden of over-complex regulations."

5G - billed as the "next generation" of mobile coverage - operates at a much higher frequency than its predecessors, and is currently being trialled in cities across the UK.

In March the government wrote to the chief executives of all councils in England, advising that it wanted the UK to be a "world leader" in 5G and asking them to put policies and procedures in place to "minimise barriers to deployment".

Earlier this year the ICNIRP announced plans to relax the safety regulations on phone mast emissions ahead of the rollout of 5G, on the basis that doing so would not pose a risk to public health.

But other scientific studies have claimed that the effect of non-ionising radiation on the human body is still not fully known, and 5G trials have been blocked in Brussels, Rome and California.

One neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: "They are rolling out something which is untested. This is weapons technology.

"This is a particularly pernicious one because it's on top of a school, and perfectly exemplifies how a blind eye is being turned. In the cold light of day, it's business."

Cllr Rossetti added: "This is new technology and the fact that it is being rolled out first on top of a school is disconcerting.

"We need new data and fresh research. I would have preferred to see these issues and parents' concerns being addressed in the document submitted, rather than seeing a copy of a successful appeal. I would also have preferred to see alternative sites being considered."

There are 323 known telecoms masts and antennae in Haringey and since January 2018 the council has received 126 applications for new installations.

As of 2016 the council no longer has a searchable "mast register" online but said it kept records on its planning database.

A spokesperson said: "We are unable to resist installations on health grounds. There is much case law on this matter.

"In the case of Alexandra Park School, we sent consultation letters to nearby properties, which formed a substantial radius around the site. We refused permission for the installation on grounds of its siting and appearance."

A similar application by Telefonica to upgrade a mast in nearby Durnsford Road was also refused on aesthetic grounds in May after 144 objections were received from neighbours.

The mast at APS dates from the early 2000s and according to public records was formerly being used by a different operator.

The school did not comment on how much it received in rent for the mast when approached by the Ham&High, and also did not confirm what it had done, if anything, to inform parents of the plans.

Headteacher Michael McKenzie said: "The phone mast dates from the early 2000s when the school was under local authority control.

"We have investigated different options for this mast but since the introduction of the Electronic Communication Code, it is extremely difficult to force the removal of an existing mast from a site.

"The proposed upgrade to 5G will go through a full planning application and I would encourage all concerned to engage with this process."

MBNL, Three and EE did not respond to a request for comment. The planning documents can be viewed online under the reference HGY/2019/1102.