Mum-of-two, Clare Brophy, said she “nearly had a heart attack” when she saw the 65ft aerial – which she likens to a rocket – looming on the other side of her back garden fence. The 47-year-old, who runs a cleaning business, claims she had no idea that the pole was due to be installed behind her house, in Balderstone, Lancashire.
According to the Manchester Evening News, Rochdale council refused planning permission for the installation in March last year on the grounds it would “represent an incongruous and dominant feature” near people’s homes. However, the decision was overturned following an appeal by mobile infrastructure firm Cornerstone.
The Planning Inspectorate ruled that the benefits “of enhancing local telecommunication coverage would outweigh the moderate harm to the character and appearance of the area”. Cornerstone insists that “screening provided by adjacent trees will minimise views of the mast within much of the local area”.
This was scant consolation to Clare when she came home from work on Wednesday, September 14, to find the equipment installed on Melbourne Road just outside the boundary of her property.
“It might as well be in the garden – it’s that close it’s ridiculous,” she told the Local Democracy Reporting Service. “I didn’t know what to think – it’s like a spaceship has appeared in my garden,” she added: “I nearly had a heart attack. I thought ‘what hell is that’ It’s not like a lamppost – it looks like it’s going to take off, it looks like a rocket.”
Clare – who lives with children Liberty, 18, and Ruben, 13 – is baffled as to why the pole has been installed on a small patch of land on Melbourne Road, just outside the boundary of her prized back garden. “They have a common field across the road,” she said. “I don’t know why they didn’t stick it there or somewhere else – it’s absolutely ridiculous.
“Why the hell have they stuck it here, when there’s one [a field] five minutes down the road and another two minutes round the corner from that?” The small business owner had recently spent more than £1,000 on getting the trees cut back to let more light into her garden and improving the view.
“I just can’t believe it – it’s spoiled the skyline completely,” she says. “Everyone loves coming to my garden, it’s a nice, gorgeous garden – and now that’s stuck there.
“I spend all my summer in the garden, I’ve got big patio doors and that’s the first thing you can see, there are no trees.” While Clare says she doesn’t subscribe to any conspiracy theories about 5G, she has read material which left her concerned about the possible impact on her family’s health, and on wildlife in the garden.
Rochdale MP Tony Lloyd says he will be approaching the government ministers responsible for the Planning Inspectorate to ask them to “urgently” look into the matter. “Nobody should come home to find such a monstrosity with seemingly grossly inadequate consultation and no consideration for the view from her house,” he said.
Cornerstone said it understands its mobile infrastructure impacts communities and “gives great consideration to minimising the visual impact” of its equipment. “We aim to ensure they blend into the area as much as is possible while enabling quality digital connectivity to the communities we serve,” the company said in a statement.
“Cornerstone proposed a base station in Balderstone, Rochdale, to provide essential network connectivity including 5G services to the area. Unfortunately, the proposed base station was refused by the Local Planning Authority [the council]. Following this refusal, we reviewed all our options, but concluded that the proposed site remained the best option locally
“A planning appeal was progressed and ultimately allowed. The site has now been developed and screening provided by adjacent trees will minimise views of the proposal within much of the local area.”
Cornerstone also submitted a document with the planning application entitled Allaying health concerns regarding 5G and exposure to radio waves. It reads: “Some people have expressed a concern that a large number of 5G cells may increase a person’s exposure to radio waves. However, the particular feature of cellular radio is that every time a new base station or cell is added, the distance the signal has to travel is shorter.
“Therefore, under the laws of physics, the power needed is reduced, leading to a decline in the smartphone power level required to connect to a base station. For many people, their smartphone will be by far the nearest source of radio wave energy to their bodies. As a result, more 5G cells will lead to a reduction in the overall radio wave signal strength an individual smartphone user is exposed to.”