A mother-to-be won a High Court victory yesterday in her battle to remove a mobile phone mast which she fears could harm her family's health.
A judge ruled that Jodie Phillips, 27, who is expecting her first baby in January, was denied a fair opportunity to suggest an alternative site for the 12.5m-high mast erected close to her home in Waterlooville, Hampshire.
In a ruling which will give heart to other members of the public objecting to mobile phone masts, Mr Justice Richards said it was a "sensitive issue" and public concern about health should be taken into account if there was a choice of sites. Efforts had to be made to find "the best location". He overruled a planning inspector's decision to give approval for the mast, which is also near a nursery school, and said the matter should be reconsidered.
Government planners had already conceded the case and agreed to a rehearing. The case came to court because Hutchison 3G (UK), who erected the "ultra slimline monopole", decided to argue there was no procedural unfairness.
In November 2002, Havant Borough Council refused planning permission because of the effect of the mast on "visual amenity and public perception of danger to health". Hutchison's appeal before the planning inspector was successful, and the company went ahead and erected the mast, even though the legality of the move was still under challenge.
Outside court, Jodie, who is particularly worried about the effect the mast's signal transmissions could have on her baby, welcomed the ruling and said she was "quite devastated" that the mast was in operation. Her husband, Nick Smith, 31, said: "Taking a case like this to court has been nerve-wracking for both of us but it feels so good to see justice done. We thought the company was incredibly insens- itive, especially when it erected the mast just after the Government had agreed it was illegal."
Their solicitor Richard Buxton said: "This judgment gives some hopes to residents by making it clear that companies must look for the best places for their equipment - not just spots convenient for them."
Hutchison were refused permission to appeal but are considering asking the Court of Appeal to hear the case.