FAMILIES are calling on council chiefs to try to rectify a planning blunder which gave the green light for a mobile phone mast to be built outside their popular local school.
A petition signed by 1,800 people in Darras Hall, Northumberland, has been handed over, asking for the use of special powers to protect the site where the 12.5m-high mast was given the go-ahead.
The petition calls on the county council to seek authorisation from the Secretary of State for an order preventing Telefonica O² or any other operator using the existing consent for land next to 450-pupil Darras Hall First School.
The Article 4 direction would remove so-called permitted development rights for the site – meaning any operator would have to start from scratch and submit a full planning application for a phone mast.
The latest move comes just weeks after hundreds of local people staged a silent protest outside the school, which persuaded O² to drop its plan to build the mast there. The company has agreed to seek an alternative site, but fears remain that it or another telecoms firm will return to the school site and implement the outstanding planning consent.
Permission was gained by default last May, when the council failed to make its decision to reject O²’s application within the required 56-day timescale.
That sparked fury amongst parents, staff and governors at the school, and hundreds more residents opposed an alternative site further along The Broadway.
Yesterday Veronica Jones, who represents Ponteland on the county council and handed over the petition at this week’s west area committee, said: “The petition seeks an Article 4 direction which would revoke permitted development rights for a mast on The Broadway.
“The planning permission could be picked up by O² or another provider, so we are trying to take steps to rectify what was a mistake by the county council. This was an error which I would like to think the council wants to put right, so that people in Darras Hall don’t have to be on constant watch for another mobile phone provider coming in.”
Last month hundreds of parents, grandparents and children from local schools defied heavy rain to turn out with placards saying No2O² and greet company representatives arriving for a meeting to discuss the Darras Hall mast controversy.
The protest resulted in O² agreeing not to proceed with the school site, and to work with the local community and planning authority to find an alternative.
A county council spokeswoman said an Article 4 direction can be made where there is a “real and specific threat to the locality in which the development is to take place”. She said a further report will go to the west area planning committee on April 8, with advice for members on the petitioners’ request.
The protest resulted in O² agreeing not to proceed with the school site, and to work to find an alternative site.