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Owner of electromagnetic retreat joins neighbours in beautiful Somerset village to fight new phone mast

Compton Dundon Residents Against the Mast has been formed to stop Telefonica and Vodafone

The owner of a retreat centre for people with electro-sensitivity is among the objectors to a new phone mast in a beautiful Somerset village.

David Taylor runs the EarthSpirit Centre in Compton Dundon, which provides solace and holistic therapy for people from across the south west, including people who attribute their ill health to modern technology.

He believes that his livelihood and that of the village is under threat from O2 owner Telefonica, which has submitted plans to build an 18-metre mast only a few minutes’ walk from his business.

Mr Taylor is one of the founders of Compton Dundon Residents Against the Mast (CDRAM), a residents’ group whose opposition has attracted the support of local MP David Warburton.

Mr Taylor said that the mast proposal was “anti-business” because it would destroy the natural environment which attracts people to Somerset.

He said: “We provide retreats here, offering holistic therapies and providing a refuge for people who are electrosensitive.

“This area has outstanding natural beauty – people come here to escape this kind of thing. It’s an anti-business development, because it will stop people coming here to enjoy the scenery and the nearby nature reserves.”

Where is the mast set to be built?

CDRAM has provided an annotated photo of where the mast will be located (with the current site pictured on the left)
CDRAM has provided an annotated photo of where the mast will be located (with the current site pictured on the left) (Image: Daniel Mumby/ CDRAM)

The mast will be sited in the corner of a field at Wright and Son’s on Ham Lane.

If erected, the past will be only a short distance from the village hall, the post office, the cricket club pitches and the Explorium creative learning centre.

CDRAM claims that the top of the mast will be the same height as the door of St Andrew’s Church, located on a nearby hill.

The mast will be operated jointly by Telefonica and Vodafone, so that users of either networks will get better signal – but EE customers will not see any benefit.

Is it just Mr Taylor’s business that will be affected?

Caroline Williams runs holiday lets in the village
Caroline Williams runs holiday lets in the village (Image: Daniel Mumby)

CDRAM includes a mixture of other business-owners and local residents, who will all be affected in different ways.

Caroline Williams, who runs holiday accommodation in the village, said that the new mast could threaten her livelihood.

She said: “People love coming to stay here – it’s so beautiful here, and the mast will ruin that. All it will take is one review on AirBnB to mention the mast and I will be out of business.”

One resident, who asked not to be named, is concerned that the mast could harm his daughter, who waits for her school bus next to the proposed site.

He said: “My daughter suffered from childhood leukaemia when she was younger, and the specialist doctor who treated her warned us that exposure to the signals emitted by telecommunication masts and electricity pylons could trigger a re-lapse. We are very worried.”

Another resident – who also did not wish to be named – added that she had moved to the village precisely because of its relatively low levels of electromagnetic radiation, and has felt her health improve significantly since her arrival.

She said: “If this mast goes ahead it would destroy my health. We would have to move.”

It’s not just people who’ll be affected

Caroline Williams, David Taylor and Michael Rose next to Compton Dundon's 1,700-year-old yew tree - which CDRAM believes will be threatened by the mast
Caroline Williams, David Taylor and Michael Rose next to Compton Dundon’s 1,700-year-old yew tree – which CDRAM believes will be threatened by the mast (Image: Daniel Mumby)

CDRAM’s members claim that the mast could have a devastating impact on wildlife in the area.

St Andrew’s Church has within its churchyard a 1,700-year-old yew tree, thought to be the oldest in Somerset.

Mr Taylor said that masts “cause a lot of harm to trees” and could result in the yew dying.

James Chapman said that there was a risk that local bee and bat populations could also die off as a result of the mast.

He said: “Phone masts can lead to colony collapse in bees – they can lose their ability to navigate if a mast is nearby. Similar behaviour has been reported with bats.”

Who else opposes the mast?

CDRAM has been set up oppose Telefonica's plans
CDRAM has been set up oppose Telefonica’s plans (Image: Daniel Mumby)

Compton Dundon Parish Council has expressed concerns that the mast would be “an eyesore”. It has asked for a re-think to allow phone reception to be improved while at the same time reducing “any potential health risk to humans, animals and plants.”

Somerton and Frome MP David Warburton is also opposed to the plans, stating: “I have received a great deal of correspondence from constituents on the matter.

“I had previously spoken with the planners expressing my dissatisfaction, and have written to the parish council asking for further consideration of the issue.”

English Heritage has asked for further surveys to be carried out determining the impact on the nearby parish church and other historic monuments in the parish.

What do the phone companies say?

CDRAM is comprised of residents and business owners from all over the village
CDRAM is comprised of residents and business owners from all over the village (Image: Daniel Mumby)

Neither Telefonica nor Vodafone – which will share coverage from the mast if it is erected – has responded directly to the concerns of CDRAM.

Both companies did, however, contribute to the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR), an independent research programme overseen by the World Health Organisation.

The MTHR published two reports, in 2007 and 2014, which found that there was “no evidence that radio-frequency radiation from mobile phones or masts causes unpleasant symptoms”.

A separate study, published on the NHS Choices website, states that “levels of exposure to radio wave radiation from mobile phone masts (base stations) are generally much lower than from mobile phones and are well below international guidelines.”

Further research into this area is ongoing.

What happens next?

South Somerset District Council is set to make a final decision on the plans after July 17.

If the plans are referred to the area north committee – to allow them to be decided upon in public – the next meeting after this date will take place at 2pm on July 26, at a venue to be confirmed.

To comment on the planning application – whether for or against – visit www.southsomerset.gov.uk/planning-and-building-control and search for reference 17/02392/TEA (PLEASE NOTE: Somerset Live is not responsible for the content of external sites).

Source: //www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/somerset-news/owner-electromagnetic-retreat-joins-neighbours-142256#comments-section

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