To receive any questions relating to items on the Agenda from members of the public and replies thereto.
Note: A maximum of 30 minutes is allowed for this item.
The Chairman explained that all members of the Committee had read all statements and questions provided, the item under discussion was to consider the planning implications of the 5G mobile technology and not about possible health risks and read the following statement: to date there have not been any proposals to roll out the emerging 5G networks across Mid Devon. Neither is there any indication at present as to the intentions of the major mobile networks for provision in Mid Devon. The item today on 5G and planning implications is this Committee taking a proactive role in looking at this issue early and will be covered in further detail during the agenda item.
The following questions were received from members of the public present:
Mr Charlie Kay referring to Item 11 (Planning Implications of 5G mobile technology) on the agenda stated that: his question related in particular to the reference to the International Commission on non-ionising radiation protection which he would refer to as ICNIRP.
When there are any questions asked in parliament by MP’s, councils, or members of the public about the health, guidelines, EMF levels or planning applications of 5G structures Government and PHE talk of adhering to international standards, and this is, in essence, ICNIRP. In the report the Head of Planning Economy and Regeneration, she refers to the ICNIRP being independent, it is not independent, the ICNIRP protects the environment and there is a need for Mid Devon to protect the environment.
Louise Thomas again referring to Item 11 on the agenda stated that given the Council's concern about climate change and the environment, is the Council able to take into consideration the environmental impact. Before Mid Devon District Council gets led down the yellow brick road of the 5G, would they please consider the economic analysis of the entire carbon footprint, environmental impact, and ecological lifecycle cost of the technology, including conflict minerals and e-waste?
Rhiannon Augenthaler again referring to item 11 on the agenda urged Mid Devon to please find a broadband provider who supplied fibre only, there was a need to find technical advancement without risk. She requested that money was set aside to spend on fibre and not 5G. Please plan for fibre cables rather than masts, cables omit no radiation and communication is better. It would be the Head of Planning, Economy and Regeneration who would give objection/approval of masts and the repercussions would come back on you as you would be liable.
Lucy Wyatt again referring to the 5G report stated that alien technology did not have huge relevance for the farming community. Farmer were not gamers. She referred to the need to protect agriculture and asked whether a cost analysis had been carried out to determine a trade off between the potential damage to pollinators from wireless technology and the savings to business.
Neil Boxall again referring to the 5G report asked what planning actually meant, there were planning considerations and needs and there was also a need to consult with users and the public in the area of Mid Devon. There was a need to challenge what the alternatives to 5G were and a need to consider the proliferation of equipment, there would be a need for an expanse of street furniture and that alternatives should be considered in the planning process.
The Chairman referred to a question posed by Lynette Stopford stating that as already mentioned, Item 11 will look at any planning implications of 5G infrastructure and will not consider health or other implications of 5G. This Committee has been monitoring the Devon County Council Spotlight Review on 5G closely. He attended the DCC public session on 5G – which some of you were at, and his Vice Chair attended the talk with Barrie Trower in Exeter.
It was his understanding that the DCC Spotlight Review on 5G is on ‘pause’ given the unprecedented times we are currently in. The Council is currently focused on supporting vulnerable people through the crisis and as such DCC Scrutiny spotlight reviews have been put on hold to support this effort. This Committee has agreed to await the outcome of that very comprehensive and detailed review.
The Chairman also read a statement from Mr Chater who asked know much support will the Council give to community wind turbine schemes? In view of this advice from the Government is there any guidance you can give me about the minimum distance that there should be between a turbine and a dwelling? Secondly, if a house is surrounded by evergreen conifers, would this affect the acceptable separation distance? Please can you tell me what area of community consultation (if any) will your authority be seeking.
The Chairman indicated that the Head of Planning and Economic Regeneration would provide a written response to Mr Chater.
The Chairman also read a statement from Cheryll Woods who stated that
Why is there a debate on 5G when there are thousands of peer reviewed papers on 2-3G showing biological harm which are being ignored in addition to hyposensitivity to EMF being recognised as a medical condition?
Oliver Perceval again referring to the 5G report asked why was the council only looking at planning implications when there were more considerations to discuss. There was a duty to push against the County Council policy and there is the ability to lobby both Government and the County Council, could planning consideration be considered in the future.
The Chairman indicated that he would discuss this further with the Vice Chairman and the Scrutiny Officer.
Jonathan Burnes asked again referring to the 5G report: can MDDC demonstrate exactly how it has arrived at that evaluation of all potential risk exposures and dismissed the need for risk assessment?
What constitutes “other material considerations”?
The Head of Planning and Economic Regeneration stated that the risk assessment within the report referred to the planning perspective, what planning could take into consideration.
Susan Fletcher referring to the 5G report stated: I would like the council to ask why after intense lobbying from the telecommunications industry are local authorities not allowed to object to telecommunications planning applications on health grounds, why hasn’t the Council challenged this?
The Chairman stated that anyone could take part in the spotlight review being considered by Devon County Council.
The Chairman then read a question from Mr Quinn My question concerns items 16 and 17 on the Agenda – Exclusion of the Public from the discussion of the 3 Rivers Governance Report.
Scrutiny Committee are being asked to exclude the public because you might reveal information relating to: individuals, the financial or business affairs of the Council, or some other persons, and some legal advice.
Item 17 is a Review of the Governance arrangements for 3 Rivers, a Company owned by the Council, whose governance is already a matter of public record.
The Directors of 3 Rivers are named in public Council reports, as well as being published at Company House. No doubt, any other Officers, or Members named in this report will also be well known to the local public, as will their duties. The salaries of the Directors and Senior Officers are also published openly.
The financial records of the Council are open for public scrutiny and loans to the Company totalling more than five million pounds have also been published in open reports to Members. The Company publishes accounts at Company House and Group Accounts, in combination with the Council, are also public.
Any legal advice must have a certain level of quality for it to qualify as exempt - it will be for Members to decide if the actual advice is worth hiding.
There is a great deal of public interest in this Company and its performance, yet the public are continually excluded, by Cabinet, from any discussions about it.
From Financial Monitoring statements to Members, and reports in the Press, it is clear that significant costs to the Mid Devon Council Tax payer are likely.
It is in the public interest that this Council is open about the governance of this wholly owned Company. So, my question is:
In view of the potential impact on the Council Tax payer and since many aspects of the governance are already open to the public - will Scrutiny Committee please uphold the Nolan Principles of Accountability, Openness and Honesty by seeing fit to discuss this report in open session?
The Chairman indicated that this would be discussed further when the item was debated.