People power puts a stop to rail masts

Network Rail last night dramatically halted work on five 30-metre communication masts after objections from angry residents.

Network Rail last night dramatically halted work on five 30-metre communication masts after objections from angry residents.

The firm had planned to erect 10 of the masts on the line between Newcastle and Carlisle - five of them in Tynedale, Northumberland.

Yesterday, The Journal reported on how residents in Bardon Mill were furious about the mast that is to be built on the edge of their village.

The work is part of a national project which will see 2,000 of the controversial masts built along rail lines all over the country - including the East Coast Main Line.

They will allow train signallers to contact drivers.

Objectors say they are both unsightly and may be a health hazard, and are furious that the Government-owned company has the right to erect them without seeking planning permission.

Yesterday, due to the pressure exerted by residents, the plans were put on hold.

Helen Winter, director of planning at Tynedale Council, said: "In response to the concerns raised by residents we have spoken to Network Rail, who have consequently agreed put all work on hold and to undertake a full review of all five mast sites in Tynedale.

"Although they informed us of the proposals in October 2006, as far as the council is concerned the responsibility for consultation with the community lies with Network Rail."

Network Rail had previously declined to comment on the exact location of the other planned masts, but The Journal yesterday obtained their exact proposed locations.

One of the villages that could have a mast is Fourstones, near Hexham, where it will be situated close to a number of homes.

Local councillor Harold Forster said he was amazed that the plans could have gone ahead without the knowledge or consent of those living locally. The firm does not have to get planning permission because of a loophole in the Town and Country Planning act. Hexham MP Peter Atkinson said he would be taking the matter up in parliament.

Residents of Bardon Mill have also condemned the way the developments have been handled. Steve Gibbon, who lives close to the mast site in Bardon Mill, said: "There is a sense of collusion between the government and Network Rail. There has been no consultation at all and they have known about this for a long time."

Residents have organised a public meeting next Tuesday at 7.30pm in All Hallows church hall, to discuss the mast.

A Network Rail spokesman said: "We would reassure our lineside neighbours that these masts fall well within emission guidelines and are not mobile phone masts.

"These masts are vital to the safe running of the railway but we will examine the concerns that have been reported to us and will take action where possible."

Comment: Page 10Mapping the mast locations proposed

MAPS obtained by The Journal yesterday give clear and exact locations of where the proposed Network Rail communication masts will be situated.

Yesterday we published details of the mast that will be put up on the edge of Bardon Mill,

The other four masts will be put up at:

* Low Shilford, which is on the A695 close to Riding Mill;

* On the industrial estate in Hexham, close to the pumping station but also near the homes in the Peth Head area of town;

* At Fourstones, near Hexham, close to the sewage works and homes at the edge of the village;

* At Hole House, on the A69 west of Haltwhistle.

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