Casebook: Court Cases - Mast decision survives alternative siting plea

Two Winchester primary school pupils have failed to overturn a High Court ruling by Mr Justice Sullivan supporting an inspector's decision to grant permission for a telecommunications mast near their school despite concerns about their long-term health.

The children claimed that their school would fall within the beam of greatest electromagnetic intensity from the mast and that Orange, the proposed operator, should have acquired an alternative site that did not raise the same level of concerns. They pointed out that the firm had powers under the Communications Act 2003 to acquire land for telecommunications development where a landowner was unwilling to enter into an agreement and alleged that the inspector failed to give this matter appropriate weight when making his decision.

In opposing the challenge, Orange responded that its powers under the act were limited and had to be approved by a county court. It asserted that the inspector was right to conclude that the county court would not have supported a mast on another site when the appeal site represented an acceptable and feasible location.

Lord Justice Pill agreed that the inspector had been entitled to find that there was no better location for the mast and to take into account objections from the police authority and Network Rail to a mast on their land on the grounds of safety and interference with emergency procedures. He ruled that inspectors could not be expected to second-guess whether a court would agree that an alternative site for a mast was acceptable.

St Leger-Davey and Another v First Secretary of State; Date: 1 December 2004; Ref: C3/2004/0576.

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