People living near Salters Lane, Matlock, have received a letter (July 12, 2011) from a firm of planning advisers acting on behalf of mobile phone company Vodaphone, notifying residents of a proposal to put a new mobile phone mast next to the Severn Trent Water building on Salters Lane. I did not myself receive a letter, as I guess I live too far away, but I have seen it, and I think the proposed new mast will potentially affect far more people than those living nearby.
For a start, there is already a telecommunications mast a few hundred yards away from the proposed site, so why do we have to have another one? The letter states that the new mast is ‘required to increase 3G network coverage for Vodaphone on the western side of Matlock’.
The ‘3G network coverage’ is basically the newest technology, ‘third generation’, mobile phone coverage. ‘New technology’, ‘third generation’, etc. all sound good, or do they? What does 3G actually mean, and do we need it? I don’t believe we do. I suspect this is primarily a means for mobile companies to extract yet more money from existing customers, by offering a mobile phone service with yet more bells and whistles attached.
So what is the benefit for us Matlock residents, this new mast? More local jobs? More local business? More local tax revenue? Not likely.
I do not believe there any significant benefits for those living nearby (or even not so nearby), but there are potential risks. The level of risk from radiation from mobile phone masts remains an unanswered question. Recent, well-conducted and reputable studies have found no evidence for increases in early childhood cancers for those who live near mobile phone masts. However, the problem is that levels of exposure for individuals have yet to be, to my knowledge, properly and accurately measured. Instead, computer models and statistical techniques are used to give estimates of individual levels of exposure.
So the uncertainty remains. What we do know is that radiation of this type and on this scale is something quite new in human experience. Because it is new, we cannot have adapted to it, therefore we ought to approach it with caution, or we, or our children and grandchildren, may well come to regret it in the future.
Do we need to take on yet more unquantifiable risk? No. Do we need to help the folks at Vodaphone generate yet more profit by enabling them to ‘squeeze more revenue from the customers and networks they have already established’? No. Do we need another mobile phone mast? No.
Can we avoid having it shoved down our throats, whether we like it or not? Probably the answer to that is also no. We will be ‘consulted’ and then the mast will be put up anyway, regardless of the outcome of the consultation process. In the end we will probably be given no choice, but at least we can make a fuss about it.