Archive for August 25th, 2010

Clearly, this very amateur photo was taken before tonight’s deluge, but it has still managed to create a storm of its own. It’s an O2 mobile phone mast. Dumped in the middle of Victoria Park, less than a minute’s walk from a toddlers’ playground.

It’s been there since the beginning of July, powered by a noisy, fume-spewing diesel generator 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I asked Tower Hamlets council’s press office on Monday last week why it was there, what planning permission it had, what consultation there was with people who live around the park, and whether the council was charging a fee for it.

Nine days later, the department run by the strangely comical £100,000-a-year Takki Sulaiman, sent me its response. Here it is: “Mobile providers sometimes look to install temporary masts to cope with the high usage of their networks during big events. In this case O2 approached the council for a licence to erect a mast for Lovebox. As the mast was to be there for a temporary period no planning permission or consultation was required.

“Following Lovebox, O2 requested if they could extend their licence up until the LED Festival on 27 and 28 August. The mast will be removed the week beginning 30 August 2010. This has been a trial and in future we will insist that the mast is removed at the end of each event.”

For those of us who live in Tower Hamlets, Victoria Park is an absolute treasure, largely because it is so unspoilt. But over the last few years, people who live near it have grown increasingly fed up with how the council has exploited it over the summer months by hiring it out for festivals and gigs (personally, I think it’s good to show the borough off, but saturation point has now been reached). When residents protested about this last year, the council said it was listening. Only to then whore itself to O2 without asking any of those residents for their views.

I’ve asked the council how much money it is charging O2. So far they’ve declined to say. And this is one case when councillors can’t be blamed because officers never even told them about it.

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