Questions about the safety of the latest generation of mobile phone technology have been raised with health chiefs by worried campaigners.
Health chiefs told them that they would follow law, policy and guidance including advice from Public Health England, a government agency.
Campaigners opposed to 5G (fifth generation) wireless technology had asked Brighton and Hove City Council to follow the “precautionary principle” after submitting a petition signed by 2,240 people last year.
At the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board, Brighton and Hove’s director of public health Alistair Hill said that Public Health England provided advice on this subject.
He told the board that exposure levels should comply with the guidelines published by International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).
At Hove Town Hall today (Tuesday 28 January), Mr Hill said that peer reviewed research had considered both the long and short-term effects of 5G technology and concluded there were “no adverse health effects”.
He said: “We recognise there is ongoing research and keep ourselves up-to-date within public health in Brighton and Hove and will remain so.
“We absolutely recognise there is concern among some of our residents about this.”
The council’s assitant director for development and regeneration Max Woodford told the board that the council could not stop the spread of 5G from a planning perspective “even if it wanted to”.
He said that the council could object to specific sites based on design and location – for example, those close to a “heritage asset” or on a listed building – but otherwise it could not use planning policy to oppose 5G.
Green councillor Sarah Nield asked a series of questions about the precautionary principle, the effect on insects and why 20-metre masts were turned down at sites near Hove Park, Arundel Street and at the corner of Roedean Road and Marine Drive last year.
Mr Woodford said that plans for the masts were refused based on existing rules because they caused “visual clutter” and harmed the character of the area.
He said that he had no information about the effect on wildlife.
Council lawyer Elizabeth Culbert said that the precautionary principle had been applied by Frome and Glastonbury town councils but neither had responsibility for planning and were not confined by the National Planning Policy Framework.
Brighton is home to Britain’s first non-university-led 5G testbed which was set up in 2017 to link businesses and universities and to try to enable cutting-edge technological innovation.
It is one of the projects backed by the Greater Brighton Economic Board, which includes the council among its member organisations.
The board is also backing the expansion of full-fibre connections, public community wifi and the “internet of things” such as smart traffic management, all of which involve 5G technology.
The Greater Brighton Economic Board was given a progress update earlier today on a digital strategy aimed at modernising the infrastructure across the city region.
At the Health and Wellbeing Board meeting two people asked public questions about 5G technology.
Thorston Manderlay asked who would be held accountable for any future health issues affecting individuals or groups of people related to 5G.
He also asked what studies formed the basis of Public Health England’s advice on the safety of 5G.
Thousands of doctors and scientists around the world, he said, had drawn attention to a lack of independent studies of non-ionising radiation.
Labour councillor Clare Moonan, who chairs the board, said that the council took its guidance from Public Health England and could not set different guidelines to those set nationally.
She said that many of the planning applications for infrastructure such as phone masts would be dealt with under “permitted development rights” which restricted the council’s powers.
Councillor Moonan added that Mr Manderlay would need to contact Public Health England about its policies.
Silvia Cabrera Hidalgo asked why, if 5G is safe, so many insurers, including Lloyd’s, refused to insure against the negative impact of wifi and 5G.
She was also concerned that some people already experienced health problems related to electric and magnetic fields (EMF).
Councillor Moonan said that insurance companies were commercial organisations and were not required to follow the same guidelines as the council.
She added that the council would always “carefully consider” any planning application which related to 5G and give people a chance to comment.