Gardens & wildlife

Railway Communications System Mast

NE of Round Hill in 2004
Residents in NE Round Hill enjoyed the Coastways Railway Corridor (as pictured above) until 13th June 2005 when Carelet's agent removed trees along the boundary with the Centenary Industrial Estate. By 2007, Network Rail had felled trees on each side of the track, extending to the bridge over Hollingdean Road, facilitating the construction of Veolia's ugly MRF and WTS. That wasn't the end:

Dec 2010 Network Rail's 15m-high communications system mast, now in place, can be seen clearly from properties to the NE of Princes Road:
railway communications system mast

Prospective residents, who may be housed on Carelet's greenfield site, would be very near indeed to the mast as well as the WTS

railway communications system mast

Network Rail states that emissions from masts of this type would be “directed along railway tracks” and would comply with international safety regulations.

Carelet's prospective residents?

As things stand, Carelet's existing permission to build 4 two-storey houses to the rear of 67-81 Princes Road has proved "unviable" and the developer's latest proposal to build 6 three-storey houses facing the railway and The Waste Transfer Station will be decided by The Government's Planning Inspectorate. The outcome of the developer's appeal against refusal is expected shortly.

Why is the mast needed?
The new microwave radio masts, which are being installed at 4 or 5 mile intervals along every railway line in the UK, use a technology called GSM-R (Global System for Mobile communications - Railway). This provides the radio communications required by ERTMS European Rail Traffic Management System - a computer based control system. The new masts will also replace the existing driver-to-signaller radio systems. The upgrade of the railway's communication system is intended to bring the network into line with the recommendations made following the Ladbroke Grove rail crash in 1991.

No planning permission required
Network Rail is able to install masts without planning permission because of a clause in The Town & Country Planning (General permitted Development) Order 1995 a piece of secondary legislation which accommodates the needs of those in the mast movement.

Part 17 "A" of this legislation, development is only permitted if the new communications system is going to be used solely in connection with the movement of rail traffic.

Clearly, maintenance crew, drivers, guards, signalling staff and other controllers come within this definition. However, campaigners against the 15-metre masts have challenged the legitimacy of stewards (who are about the service of passengers and not the movement of rail stock) using the new communications system. The same challenge has been applied to station porters, cleaners, security, British Transport Police. None of these groups contribute to the movement of rail traffic.

Campaigners have expressed similar concerns about third party operators, such as mobile phone network providers, using the masts for their own purposes. In offering assurances to local authorities, Network Rail confirms (according to the legislation) that they are not in a position to allow third-party operators to use Railway Communications System Masts for their own purposes.

Health & Safety of residents living nearby
GSM-R is an enhanced version of GSM, the technology used by commercial cellular operators. However, unlike commercial operators, Network Rail requires coverage only along the track and so the base station and antenna equipment is designed such that the GSM-R signal is directed at the railway.

Permissions to house residents very near to the track

Permissions have been granted by Brighton and Hove City Council and The Government's Planning Inspectorate for residential development on greenfield sites within a few metres of the track (e.g. land to the rear of 67-81 Princes Road and land to the rear of Springfield Road opp. Platform 1 of London Road Station).

However, according to assurances to local authorities, emissions from antennas will be fully compliant with ICNIRP guidelines for the general public and trackside workers alike.

Railway users and workers would certainly have cause to be worried if a good communications system were not in place.

It is "as it should be" that the death and injury toll on the railways is substantially less than that which is tolerated on the roads.

Review the opposition to masts
Balanced against the importance of safety on the railway network are the concerns of groups who campaign generally against wireless technology and phone masts

Campaign Groups

www.mastsanity.org - (1) on Network Rail's masts.
www.mastsanity.org - (2) on Network Rail's masts.
www.planningsanity.co.uk on Network Rail masts

Residents' campaigns

Karen & Tim Atkinson - safety
Valerie Reid - visual impact
Sutton Coldfield residents - visual impact

Concern for trees
Network Rail has a policy of tree felling, involving the removal of all trees within 5 metres of the track within the curtilage of every operating railway line in the UK .

Network Rail reserves the right, at their discretion for felling of trees up to 10 metres from any track.

They also claim to have the right to fell or lop trees on adjacent properties not in their ownership if they consider they could have an impact on the operation of the railway.

All this work can be undertaken by Network Rail without the requirement of any form of statutory consent.

Wildlife campaigners emphasise the environmental impact of tree-felling on biodiversity, wildlife, flora & fauna, urban landscapes and visual amenity.

One of the omissions in granting permission to the developer Carelet to build very near to the Coastways Railways was leave something as important as landscaping in the context of The Waste Transfer Station subject to a planning condition.

The PLANS LIST failed to confirm the existence of any dialogue between the developer and Network Rail as to whether satisfactory screening was feasible given the spatial limitations.

Screening Round Hill from the WTS
& repair of the greenway / railway corridor

Tree-planting instead of residential development on this sensitive greenfield site would now help to screen Round Hill both from Hollingdean Depot and the Railway Communications System Mast.

NE of Round Hill in 2004

The picture (directly below) shows how the NE or Round Hill looked in 2004 BEFORE Carelet's site clearance and tree felling (eastern boundary: 13.07.2005) and BEFORE Network Rail subsequently removed the trees on its own land (northern boundary: both N & S railway embankments) to make way for the MRF/WTS developments at Hollingdean Depot.
NE of Round Hill in 2004

NE of Round Hill in 2005

NE of Round Hill in 2007

railway communications system mast


This page was last updated by Ted on 26-Sep-2013
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