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latest update 12 March 2010

Friday, 29 June 2007

Council 'hugely embarrassed' over mast blunder

Wirral Globe - by Kerry Barker

ANGRY residents called for a police investigation into how four phone masts were given planning permission in a massive council blunder.

Tempers flared last-night as council officials explained the mistakes that will allow phone giant T-Mobile to go ahead with its plans - despite being turned down by Wirral's planning department.

"This was a human, administrative and managerial error and we are hugely embarrassed by this"

Dave Green
At a public meeting at Wallasey Town Hall, more than 50 people demanded answers and applauded Tory councillor Lesley Rennie when she said she could "smell a rat."

The former police officer said that she doesn't believe the blunders were mistakes and thought it was "strange" that four unsent files coincidently related to phone masts.

But director of technical services Dave Green refuted the claims and said he has no reason to suspect foul play.

"This was a human, administrative and managerial error and we are hugely embarrassed by this," he said.

"I don't believe for one second that there was any dishonesty."

T-Mobile's applications for masts in Pensby, Heswall, Moreton and Claughton, were refused by two planning committees after fierce opposition from more than 600 people.

But the council failed to send out the decision notices within the 56-day time limit and did not realise until the company sent an email telling them that they now had deemed consent.

Dave Green said that an investigation into mal-administration is now underway by the Local Government Ombudsman.

"We absolutely messed up and the democratic process has been frustrated by this error. But there is no legal redress for our mistake and now the law is on the side of the operator.

"Our only option is to work with T-Mobile to find alternative sites."

Planning chairman Cllr John Cocker said that he felt equally let down by the "sorry saga" but was met with torrents of angry comments blasting the council as "incompetent."

Pharmaceutical worker Alison Sait from Holt Avenue, Moreton, worked tirelessly to gather signatures on a petition to stop a mast in Moreton Cross before she discovered that an alternative site was planned for her own road.

She said: "I am furious."

"If I make a mistake, I am either sent to jail or sacked.

"I feel completely let down and appalled by this shambolic council that is letting residents suffer for their incompetence.

"This is an absolute disgrace, shame on you all."

Former Conservative, now independent, councillor David Kirwan referred to a similar mix-up in 2001 and called for an independent inquiry for the benefit of the public.

He also expressed his anger when residents were banned from discussing the four alternative sites for the masts, which will go before the planning committee on July 12.

Cllr Chris Blakeley said that T-Mobile are now in a "win-win situation" and the public should be entitled to compensation.

A council spokesperson said: "Cabinet minute makes clear that a full investigation is underway.

"When that is complete, all necessary action will be taken. At this point, there is no suggestion of any criminal wrong doing."

© copyright Wirral Globe. Reproduced under fair use for the dual purposes of comment and news reporting