Pensioner halts erection of Vodafone mast in Hythe with lone protest
A 77-YEAR-OLD woman thwarted plans by a global communications giant to erect a 26-metre phone mast in Hythe by sitting in front of the site and refusing to move.
Maggie Lawless rushed out of her home when she saw workers arriving at a green in Southampton Road on Monday morning ready to put the up the equipment for Vodafone.
Emily Kemish, who lives next door to Maggie, told the A&T: “She was just brilliant. She is quite seriously ill but she was determined to make a stand.
“She got her husband to bring a chair, then she plonked it down where the workers were about to erect the mast, sat in it and refused to budge.”
The contractors eventually gave up and stopped work for the day. But when they returned on Tuesday they found Maggie had been joined by more residents in her protest.
Emily said: “We stood on the site and said we were not leaving until they stopped what they were doing.
“There had been no previous notification about this mast or any consultation.
“Where it was going to be sited is right beside the main footpath into the village and where schoolchildren walk.
“We were threatened with the police but we were not budging. When they gave up we felt like we’d won a real David and Goliath fight.”
Emily said she has contacted New Forest District and Hampshire County councils about whether the contractors had the right permissions.
Cllr Alex Wade praised the residents saying: “It really is a great example of people power. Normally NFDC would hear about proposals for a mast from a parish council but we had heard nothing about this one.
“I think the residents had every right to be angry. At the very least there should have been some form of consultation with them.
“I have to give them credit for their bravery and determination."
Cllr Wade said NFDC's planning department had been alerted about the mast and was investigating.
A council spokesperson said: “NFDC officers are aware of the situation and the concerns of the local community.
"We are in contact with the telecommunications company and will provide an update for interested parties as soon as possible.”
A spokesperson for contractors Cornerstone revealed the company was now "reviewing" its options in Hythe.
They said: "We understand that people do have concerns about the location of telecommunication base stations.
"Following a redevelopment notice on one of our existing sites, the temporary base station in Southampton Road, Hythe, would have continued to provide existing mobile coverage and connectivity to the local community.
"Unfortunately we have had to stop the proposed build due to members of the public entering our site and making the area unsafe."