Proposed Vodaphone Mast: Potential Threat to School

22.08.11: A rift has opened up between some parents of Gerrans School and a proposed Vodaphone mast at the local Squash club, the results of which could seriously jeopardise the School’s future.

A petition, presented by the parent of a child at Gerrans School, Rob Morton to Richard Sharp, secretary of Gerrans squash club states:

As you may already know, Vodafone want to put a mobile base station mast next to the squash court, Treloan lane, Gerrans, Cornwall TR2 5EQ. As parents and carers of our children in the community we feel that there is no scientific evidence that mobile phone signals are not harmful to children over the longer term.

Mobile phones have not been in existence for long enough for anybody to categorically say that such signals are not harmful to people. Therefore if the erection of this mast takes place, we will have to remove our child(ren) from the school.

Richard Sharp told Roseland Online “I am very concerned that the Squash Club is going to be cast in the role of villain. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The History: The Squash club was approached by a representative of Vodaphone to ask about placing a mast on their building last summer, which they would receive rent for. This was an attractive offer for the club who could use the money for much needed improvements. After a meeting of the Squash Club committee, however, it was decided that, as attractive as the proposal was, it would not be acceptable to the committee if it meant that just one child was taken away from the School.

Richard Sharp added, “The first thing we did, therefore, was to contact the School to notify them of the proposal and to invite them to sound out parents. This was discussed at a meeting of governors (including the head teacher), where the reaction was one of no particular opposition to the proposal. However, it was felt that they did not want to approach parents until (a) one of the governors had checked with County that the proposal was within County guidelines (which I understand it is) and (b) we had run the proposal past the Parish Council. In that way a more informed letter could go out to parents.

“In the mean time [Vodaphone’s representatives] wrote to the head teacher and I am told that it stated, in effect, that it did not matter if the School objected as they would be putting the mast up anyway. Obviously she could not ignore this letter and so she wrote to parents and not surprisingly, many of them are up in arms.”

Roseland Online contacted Councillor Julian German who said he would be happy chair a meeting to help resolve the issue, however said, “It is my understanding that the Parish Council feel this is a matter for Gerrans School.”

Roseland Online has had no reply from Gerrans Parish Council to date but Gerrans School Governor, Annabelle Sylvester told us in an email on Saturday, “Gerrans Primary School is only too aware of the current ‘mast’ situation and we have acted accordingly. We have facilitated the sharing of information between the Squash Club, Vodaphone and parents. Any individual parental concerns hereafter should be directed to the Squash Club, Vodaphone, Gerrans Parish Council and the County Council Planning Committee.”

In Richard Sharp’s reply to Rob Morton and the protesting parents (14 in all, representing more than 14 children), he states.

“We would be very disappointed is this opportunity were to pass us by because objectors were not giving the issues a fair hearing. We are assured that the radio frequency levels would be many times lower than the safety levels set out in the guidelines of the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection). I can assure you that we could not still be having discussions with Vodaphone if we ourselves had any reservations at all about safety issues.

“We have little doubt that this mast will go somewhere. The fear is that because the School is on the highest ground around, it could end up even nearer the School with a less scrupulous landowner than the Squash Club with no consequential benefit to the community. That would be a shame.” (To download Richard’s full letter, click here)

There are currently only around 30 children at Gerrans School this coming year and staffing cuts have had to be made already, so nearly half of the children being removed because of this issue would have devastating effects on the future of the School.

In a letter to Mr Sinclair (a representative of Vodaphone), Head teacher of Gerrans School, Mrs Elvy, writes:

There seems to be general unrest at the moment about the whole issue. The Parish Council seem to want no part in this, and I do not feel it right for the school to push the decision one way or the other. I feel it is maybe time for you [Mr Sinclair] in liaison with the Squash club to hold a meeting about the proposal. It appears that the community want a ‘body’ to turn to for advice and factual information… may I suggest you liaise with Mr. Sharp on this matter.

Roseland Online will of course keep tabs on this complex and sensitive issue and will do its best to inform everyone about any planned meeting. As it is clear that as both parties in the dispute are under pressure to come to a decision – The Squash club from Vodaphone, and the protesters because the new School year is looming and enrolment is required soon – a meeting fairly soon to address the issues head on seems the best course of action.

Roseland Online has been in contact with both the European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH) and Environment and Sustainability Institute at Exeter University and hopes that a representative from one or both of these bodies will agree to be present at any meeting to act as as to an independent voice for the technology Vodaphone are suggesting using, so as to add clarity on the risks on health this mast may have on both the School and the village.

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