Plans approved for 5G masts on South Shields social club, despite health concerns raised by neighbours

Plans have been approved for taller telephone masts on top of a South Shields social club, despite health concerns from nearby residents.

South Tyneside Council Planning Committee at their latest meeting heard proposals to remove and replace 6.1 metre high support poles on the roof of Whiteleas Social Club in Oswald Street with 8.1 metre poles.

The plans, from Comerstone, stated existing antennas and transmission dishes would be relocated to the new poles, and further equipment installed to introduce 5G coverage to the Whiteleas area.

Speaking at the meeting, Vicky Parsons, from planning agent Clarke Telecom, said the move is part of a wider push from Telefonica UK Ltd, to upgrade a number of their sites.

Plans for the masts were approved for the roof of Whiteleas Social Club.

This will also provide improved 2G, 3G and 4G coverage for the area, including for Vodafone customers.

Four objections were submitted by residents to the plans, raising concerns over the appearance of the scheme and potential associated health issues.

However councillors ultimately unanimously voted in favour of the development, noting national health guidance over the phone masts.

This was in line with council officer recommendations, who said the proposals would “not harm the character or appearance of this area to such a degree to warrant the refusal of this scheme”.

Plans for the masts were approved for the roof of Whiteleas Social Club.

An Oswald Street resident, speaking at the planning committee meeting, said a number of residents living nearby to the masts had been diagnosed with cancer.

He said: “There are 11 instances of cancer within people who live within 70 metres of the Whiteleas club.

“We call upon the council to intervene and conduct urgent enquiries, around the health and wellbeing of those people living in close proximity to these masts.

“We have real people getting seriously ill and something is responsible for that illness.”

Plans for the masts were approved for the roof of Whiteleas Social Club.

However council officers noted the developer has submitted a Declaration of Conformity with the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) Public Exposure Guidelines.

This indicates the proposals would be in full compliance with the required guidelines, and National Planning Policy Framework notes local planning authorities should not differ from such regulations.

Cllr Doreen Purvis, planning committee chair, said: “I think it goes without saying that the sympathies of this committee are with all the people whose health issues you mentioned.

“However we are constrained in what we can and can’t do.”

Cllr Wilf Flynn urged everyone affected to contact Healthwatch South Tyneside if they wish to investigate the issue further.

Cllr Neil Maxwell added if the masts weren’t on top of the Whiteleas Social Club, they would still have to go somewhere else in the region.

Miss Parsons confirmed the proposals fully comply with local and national planning policy, and the applicant has submitted the required certificates and a “plethora of supporting documentation” in response to the health concerns.

She added the poles are also the minimum height needed for the development.

Council officers noted if councillors were to refuse the application on human health grounds “when they do not have the science behind it”, the proposals would likely be allowed on appeal, in line with national guidelines.

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