FAMILIES fighting plans to erect a mobile phone mast in the heart of their upmarket community are to be addressed by a leading expert on the issue of health risks posed by radiation.
Hundreds of local people are expected to attend a public meeting in Darras Hall, Ponteland, next month at which the guest speaker will be academic and author Barry Trower from Dartmoor.
Mr Trower – a scientific adviser to the Radiation Research Trust – has been involved with radiation research since the 1960s.
He produced a report for the Police Federation on possible health risks for users of the Tetra police radio system, and has raised concerns over the safety of mobile phone masts close to people’s homes.
Mr Trower is coming to Darras Hall at the invitation of campaigners fighting moves by Telefonica O2 to erect a mobile phone mast in The Broadway.
They hope he will be able to bring locals fully up to date on current research into mast safety, and answer serious questions about alleged public health impacts of masts raised by communities in France, Spain and the UK.
Northumberland County Council recently rejected an application by O2 for a 15m-high mast next to old people’s flats in The Broadway, after more than 300 residents and businesses objected.
Earlier this year councillors rejected a previous bid by the firm for a 12.5m mast about 200m along the road, right outside Darras Hall First School. That refusal was subsequently found to be invalid, as the committee failed to make its decision within the required 56 days of the application being received.
O2 is currently considering its next move, which could involve seeking a third potential site, appealing against the recent refusal or going ahead with the mast outside the school for which it gained permission by default.
Mr Trower, who has refused to accept any payment for his visit to the North East, will address the public meeting on December 3 at 6.30pm in Ponteland Memorial Hall.
Businessman Ian McLean, who lives in The Drey, Darras Hall and has a child at the first school, has helped organise the meeting.
He said: “There is a lot of information out there about phone masts and how harmful they can be, so we feel the best way forward is to get a scientific viewpoint on it.
“Serious questions have been raised about leukaemia and other health problems caused by masts in France, the USA, Spain and here in Britain, and we hope Barry Trower will be able to advise us. We don’t want a mast within 500m of the school or anywhere near houses.”
O2 spokesman Tom Powell said: “Senior management are currently considering a number of options at Darras Hall before making a decision on what to do. All of O2’s installations conform with guidelines from the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.
“The World Health Organisation has issued a factsheet summarising research to date on this issue, and its conclusion was that there is no risk to people’s health as a result of living near mobile phone base stations.”