School fears mobile mast is a health risk
Staff and parents of pupils at Edinburgh Academy Junior School have hit out plans by neighbouring Inverleith Parish Church to apply for permission to install a fake flagpole in the middle of its square tower.
The school believes the mast, which is to be run by T Mobile, will pose a health risk.
Heritage groups are also battling the plan over claims the flagpole would be an "eyesore". The church, in Inverleith Gardens, off Ferry Road, dates from 1879 and its tower is a well-known local landmark. It already has two mobile transmitters on its roof, but the flagpole containing the mast is planned to be some six metres high.
More than 40 people have now objected to the mobile phone company's planning application, while a protest petition has been backed by another 40.
In a letter to the council, the school's headteacher Caroline Bashford said: "I am extremely concerned about the possible health implications for those living in the vicinity of the tower, especially children who are most vulnerable to the radiation these antennae emit.
"There are already two telecommunications installations in the church tower and I am concerned about the cumulative effect that additional installations on the church may have.
One parent, Martin Cassels, of Learmonth Terrace, said: "I have a son at the junior school and am extremely concerned.
"I do not allow my children to use mobile phones because of the uncertainties regarding the long-term effect of children, in particular, being exposed to this kind of radiowave activity."
Bobbie Fraser, honorary secretary of the Inverleith Society heritage group, said the installation would detract from the tower's visual impact.
He said: "Council guidelines recommend special care is taken in the design and location of telecommunications equipment in a conservation area and in the setting of listed buildings. We do not believe that has happened in this instance."
T Mobile has told the council that the church is the best site in the area to serve customers in Stockbridge and south Granton. The firm has also insisted that its transmissions will be well within the statutory safety guidelines.
Hugh Davidson, minister at the church, said: "We believe we will be something like 500 times away from the recognised limits for radiation emissions after this mast is installed. I don't quite understand why there is so much opposition from people in the area."
Alan Henderson, the council's head of planning, has recommended T Mobile's planning application is given the go-ahead when councillors meet to discuss it next week. He said: "The proposed flagpole will add a new feature to the tower of the church. However, it fits in with the form and design and does not detract from its overall composition.
"It will not have a major impact on views within the conservation area. Health and safety issues have been addressed."