Odysseus was, when all is said and done, a bit of a show off. Stuffing the ears of the crew with wax and then having himself lashed to the mast to listen to the Siren`s song might seem a little OTT, but his showmanship is nothing compared to the survival instinct of Walsall cabinet.
Last July, a dirty great big 45 foot mobile phone mast suddenly sprouted in a nice, quiet, respectable residential road in Pheasey Park Farm, Walsall, England, UK, Europe, planet Earth. The sheer horror of this obscene monstrosity sent local residents rushing to their mobile phones to complain to the council but sadly there was no signal because the mast had yet to be activated. Undeterred, the good people retreated to their kitchens and with one ear glued to the microwave in anticipation of the readiness of a Findus Beef Lasagne, formulated a petition. Their local councillors were, of course, fully supportive of the possible dent in their majorities and immediately took decisive action to reverse the outrage. Mobile phone masts, like diabolical wind turbines have no place in the lovely borough of Walsall.
In a digital age, it is the God given right of every citizen to receive the latest goal alerts from Manchester United, to be able to download Adele`s latest release and to take photographs of passers by doing stupid things, car crashes, cardiac arrests and the ability to tell the world that they are enjoying a cup of coffee at Starbucks. This vital connectivity, however, comes with a price. The mobile phone companies are not charities and obviously have no interest in local or national democracy. If a company like Vodaphone can pressure a government to ignore an £8billion, yes billion, tax bill, Walsall council has about as much chance of tackling these corporate rogues as a Walsall resident has of tackling Walsall council. The fault, though, seems not to lie with the evil, multinational phone corporations, but with Walsall council itself.
Vodaphone and O2 submitted proposals for the wretched mast and were turned down by the planning committee after objections from citizens worried about the possibility of having their brains scrambled by invisible magic radiation emissions and having a tall object on their street that didn`t look like a tree, lamp post or telephone pole. Sadly, the council either forgot to post the letters to Vodaphone and O2 or possibly used a second class stamp as a cost cutting measure. Anyway, the mast was, as they say, erected. Perhaps the council should have used a wireless baby alarm from Poundland to communicate its wisdom. Having had its incompetence exposed, those in charge of this shambles resorted to the law in a desperate attempt to retain any semblance of credibility with the people charged with voting for them. The High Court in that there London laughed the council`s appeal out into the street.
Like any other hopelessly inept local authority faced with humiliation, Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council issued a press release in a hilarious effort to save both face and votes. Cabinet member for Finance and Personnel Christopher Towe is quoted as saying:
“It`s important that we fought this and from what we understand this the mobile phone companies won in a technicality in law. It`s absolutely right that we represented the views of residents not just on moral grounds but also because there is a risk of this happening again.”
Councillor Towe is responsible for the council legal officers.
The genius that holds the Regeneration portfolio, Herculean Councillor Adrian Andrew said:
“The mobile phone companies involved in this O2 and Vodaphone need to hang their heads in shame for the way they have behaved on this. This makes a total mockery of the flagship policy of localism. A democratically accountable public authority refused this application plain and simple. The council did not want this, residents did not want this and local councillors did not want this but we have all been ridden roughshod over. This is a total disgrace. This is a morally reprehensible mobile phone mast.”
Council leader Mike Bird said this:
“I`m proud to say we`ve supported residents by taking this fight to the High Court on their behalf. I`m absolutely furious about this decision to not allow them their day in court. It seems as though the views of residents have been totally ignored in all of this. This is undemocratic and I`d ask that the Government take a look at the legislation that allows such a decision to happen.”
So, the council made a complete hash of the planning application and councillor Bird wants the law changed to allow for idiocy. Councillor Towe sees phone masts as a “moral issue” and Councillor Andrew finds the phone mast “morally reprehensible”. It does seem rather strange that a council running “roughshod” over the local electorate regarding the closure of Willenhall Leisure Centre, Sneyd Community School, the abandoning of Bryntysilio, the vindictive cuts to Walsall Greenspaces and so many more destructive policies that are ruining this town should be less “undemocratic” and “morally reprehensible” than a 45 foot pole in Pheasey. It is, of course, a complete coincidence that the three elected representatives for Pheasey Park Farm are councillors Towe, Andrew and Bird.
These chaps might live to regret lashing themselves to a phone mast. Having been laughed out of court and having failed the people of Walsall, they have now failed the people who voted for them in Pheasey. Watch out for the rocks guys, the Sirens bite.