The challenge of deploying 5G in the United Kingdom has been starkly illustrated this week after a setback in the Somerset city of Bath.
The BBC reported on the setback, which shows the resistance mobile operators face by some local residents opposed to 5G technology, over unscientific fears it poses a health risk.
Matters were not helped when Bath’s Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse was among those calling on the council to listen to concerns about health.
The BBC reported that Bath and North Somerset Council’s planning committee voted six to three to refuse permission for an existing 4G mast to be upgraded to 5G.
It seems that operators EE and Three had wished to upgrade their 15m mast at a sports ground on the fringes of Bath, to include 5G equipment and raising the height by an extra 5 metres.
Vodafone also wishes to build a 5G mast at the sports ground, but now likely faces a similar defeat.
The council received more than 300 objections to the EE/Three mast from local residents to the plan, many of them citing the false threat to health argument.
Indeed, a group called Stop 5G in Bath also reportedly rallied opposition to the mast.
The group aims to pressure councils to refuse all applications linked to the rollout of 5G technology. It alleges that 5G is untested, and poses a threat to human health while endangering wildlife.
The planning committee reportedly cited the mast’s proximity to an area of outstanding natural beauty and the green belt as the reasons for refusing permission.
But the BBC reported that councillors who spoke out against it stressed that the mast was close to schools and an allotment, and warned of its impact on public health and wildlife.
One said the impact on bees could be catastrophic, another was concerned about the potential impact on bats.
This decision highlights the challenge that mobile operators have in trying to deploy 5G in the UK, and trying to meet government targets.
Digital Minister Matt Warman was quoted as saying by the BBC that while he could not comment on a particular planning case, “there is no credible scientific basis that 5G has an adverse impact on people’s health.”
The minister said the government wanted people across the country to get fast and reliable connectivity as soon as possible, and “we will it would “do all we can to avoid delays to that programme.”
Experts at the International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) this year declared that 5G was safe for human health.
ICNIRP is based in Germany, and it is the international body in charge of setting limits on exposure to radiation.
Ofcom also recently carried out safety tests in the UK of 5G base stations and found that there is no danger to the public posed by its electromagnetic energy (EME) levels.
Vodafone UK’s chief executive Nick Jeffery has previously revealed that one of the attacked towers provided mobile connectivity to the Nightingale hospital in Birmingham, denying family the ability to say their goodbyes remotely to loved ones.
BT’s chief executive, Philip Jansen previously pleaded for the “mindless idiots who truly believe that 5G and Covid-19 are linked” to stop their attacks.
Jansen said that BT has seen telephone poles wrapped in barbed wire to stop its engineers doing their job, even though they are fixed-line (landline) cables and nothing to do with the mobile network.
He also revealed that 39 BT engineers had been verbally or physically assaulted – including threats to kill.
Last month chief executive Clive Selley, confirmed that an Openreach engineer was left with five stab wounds in an attack earlier this year.
The engineer was in his forties, and the motives behind the attack remain unclear, although it came during the height of abuse of telecom workers over false 5G conspiracy theories.
The engineer was later discharged from hospital.
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