Phone mast protester Bernadette Checkley fears her chances of surviving cancer are in danger if a new phone mast is allowed to go up 80 yards away from her home.
The nurse, who is receiving chemotherapy for ovarian cancer, warned that she and other residents living in Borough Park Road, Totnes, are already suffering health problems because of the existing phone masts sited around the town.
Mrs Checkley was among a seven-strong delegation from the newly formed Electro Magnetic Fields Aware Totnes protesting over Vodaphone’s plans to site a 57ft high phone mast on a grass verge in Babbage Road, Totnes, opposite the Royal Mail depot.
She told town councillors: “This mast is not wanted and this mast is not needed. I fear that it will endanger my recovery.”
The protesters warned that Totnes is being treated like a “guinea pig” by the telecommunication giants, as they claimed that thousands of doctors in Germany are already pointing to mast emissions as the cause of a rise in all sorts of illnesses, including heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimers and cancers.
Protest group spokesman Sue Webster told councillors: “We would like to point out that houses in this area are already suffering from low-level microwave radiation from the very strong Windmill Down multi-mast and from the mast that is already up in Babbage Road.
“I am particularly concerned about the amount of illness in Borough Park Road as it is already sandwiched between these masts and a lot of people are suffering from the effects we know are due to the masts, as either the illnesses started after they moved in and, when they move away to places where there are no electromagnetic fields, find they sleep wonderfully and feel great and one said to me ‘life is like it used to be’.”
As councillors voted to reject the installation of the new mast, they pointed out that it would be within yards of the town’s main GP surgery, the town’s community hospital and the Atmos development site – and within a kilometres of the Grove School, King Edward VI Community College and hundreds of homes.
Although South Hams District Council’s planning committee has the final say, town councillors demanded to know if any health risk assessment had been carried out for the new mast and whether any justification based on need had been proven.
There are already two major phone masts on the edge of Totnes, at Totnes Down Hill and Windmill Down, plus a smaller one on the Babbage Road industrial estate.
Vodaphone has submitted a “prior approval” planning application to site the new mast in Babbage Road along with partners Telefonica to improve 2G, 3G and 4G coverage.
The new protest group is a rebirth of the successful South Hams Against Mast Emissions protest group which had the support of hundreds of residents 17 years ago as it successfully fought off a supermarket plan to put a mast on top of what is now the Morrisons store.
The following year, the group also won a campaign to stop a mast being installed in front of Totnes Castle, and pressured planners into rejecting a One2One mast bid in the middle of Totnes – also near to the hospital and health centre – after flooding the planning department with more than 500 protest letters.
The latest campaign group has warned that many people in the town are so concerned about mast emissions that they have taken steps to shield their homes and at least one person has been forced to sleep in the basement of their house to avoid the electro magnetic fields.
But they pointed out that people are wary of speaking publicly about it from fear that doing so could affect their ability to sell their homes.
Ms Webster said: “If we in Totnes do not want the mast we can write letters, but can only protest against the aesthetics of an ugly 57ft mast and on the grounds of our ‘health fears’.
“There is a growing body of evidence worldwide to back up the experiences of local people who live in the beams of the three masts that now cover Totnes.
“All these residents know that their health is being affected by these masts because they notice how their symptoms improve when they stay away in an environment free from microwave pollution.
“What local people want to hear is how long do they have to continue to be the victims of what is clearly a flagrant breach of human rights – the right to live in their homes free from health hazards.”