Councillors faced physical threats, intimidation and online abuse over the construction of a telecoms mast, a member of Framfield parish council has said.
Speaking after Tuesday night’s parish council meeting, which saw a unanimous vote in favour of installing a mast on the village's recreation ground, parish clerk Anne Newton said police have been informed about threats made to members which, she says, almost overspilled into violence.
She also cited a ‘vile’ online posting showing a melted baby’s head and what she termed a chronicle of misinformation which accused her, and other members of ‘taking backhanders.’ She said business supporters of the mast refused to come to the meeting because they feared intimidation.
Addressing a packed village hall, parish council chair Jeff Goggin explained how the council, acting for the Framfield Trust, was approached by agents Shared Access requesting a lease of 0.1 per cent of the land for the mast in exchange for payment of £40,000. The money would pay for village hall improvements, Mr Goggin said.
Speaking from the floor, objectors outlined genuine concerns that the recreation ground is a memorial to those parishioners who died in two world wars and should be protected.
Agent Andrew Samuel, representing the Curtis family, said the mast would not be keeping with the true purpose of the Trust and asked whether it was appropriate to continue with the scheme, given such a high degree of village opposition.
Backing the scheme, one speaker said she needed to know her 13-year-old daughter could stay safe and use a mobile phone to contact her family. Representing a local family, another speaker said small businesses needed good mobile connections and scientific research to date showed as no proof masts damaged health.
Several speakers asked whether the council would reconsider their decision if the World Health Organisation’s investigations revealed masts are a health hazard.
A letter was read from a senior officer in the Sussex Regiment deploring the siting of the mast on a memorial ground, but Cllr Newton said she was contacted by Michael Harland, grandson of World War I soldier William Harland (in whose name a tree was dedicated) approving the scheme.
Both objectors and supporters deplored the aggressive level of campaigning and debate.
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