Parents could take their children out of a Keynsham school if “insane” plans for a 5G mast are approved amid fears for their health.
Broadlands Academy in St Francis Road already has a mast standing 17.9 metres high that could be replaced by a 20-metre mast with six antennae, a microwave dish and other equipment.
More than 160 people have objected, with many concerned for children’s health, and only seven have supported the application.
Keynsham Town Council branded the proposed mast “wholly inappropriate in this sensitive location” and said Bath and North East Somerset Council’s director of public health should assess the impact the upgrade would have on the town.
It added: “There is already talk within the community of parents/carers removing children from the school, should the application be granted.
“Concerns are then that the town will lose a much needed secondary school with a good Ofsted rating and very good nursery.”
When B&NES Council planning committee members rejected plans for a mast in Bath in December after hundreds of objections – mainly on health grounds – they were warned against “flying in the face of” government guidance insisting that the rollout of 5G is safe.
Digital minister Matt Warman has said there is “no convincing evidence” that radiofrequency field exposures below guideline levels cause health effects in either adults or children.
Applicant Cornerstone, a joint venture from Vodafone and O2, has sought to reassure the public, saying in its proposals: “We recognise that the growth in mobile communication has led, in some cases, to public concern about perceived health effects of mobile technology, in particular about siting masts close to local communities.
“Our radio base stations are designed and built so that the public are not exposed to radio frequency fields above the guidelines set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.
“In fact, radio base stations operate at low power and emit levels of radiofrequency fields many times lower than the ICNIRP general public guidelines.”
Residents were not convinced, with one describing the upgrade as an “unacceptable experiment on the health of the public”.
Sarah Meadows said in her objection: “Until these technologies are proven safe, they should not be used or installed anywhere near children whose bodies are still developing and are at even greater risk of harm by 5G and other wireless radiofrequency radiation.”
Chris Horner said: “Why would anyone even consider erecting a phone mast right next to a school? This is total insanity, clearly with no regard for the health and wellbeing of children.”
Others have criticised the visual impact of the proposed upgrade.
Councillor Brian Simmons has asked for the application to be considered by the council’s planning committee, and for residents to be given longer to respond.
School leaders have sought to distance themselves from the application.
Academies Enterprise Trust secondary executive director Nathan Thomas wrote to parents on May 11 saying the mast predates the trust’s involvement with Broadlands and removing it would be “legally incredibly challenging”.
“The legislation makes it virtually impossible to remove masts, or contest their upgrades. The new rent we receive will be even less than currently,” he said.
Mr Thomas advised anyone with concerns to contact the telecoms companies but said the trust will do “all we can to influence the aspects that we are able to control”.
B&NES Council will decide the fate of the application.
Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter