Framfield parish councillors resolved last night to go ahead with allowing a telecommunications mast to be sited on the village recreation ground.
Campaigners against the mast, who were supported by the original owners of the land, argued in vain to stop the proposal going ahead.
The councillors, acting as trustees of the Framfield Memorial Hall and Recreation Ground Trust allowed comments and questions at a public meeting but pressed ahead with their resolution.
They were ready for opposition and had statements prepared which were read out at the meeting and made available for distribution.
Cllr Sam Sharples read one out, as the meeting began, which set out out how the trustees came to a conditional decision about the siting of the mast.
After councillors confirmed that decision vice-chairman Cllr Keith Brandon read out another statement which criticised “derogatory” comments made about individual councillors, staff and Framfield Parish Council by a “small minority” of parishioners who objected to the mast.
Cllr Brandon said: “These comments have been submitted by email, copied to multiple figures and organisations and posted to social media websites – comments that imply councillors are corrupt and are taking personal payments for their part in the mast application process. These statements are simply not true.”
The statement pointed out that parish councillors were volunteers who gave up their time to make strategic decisions for the benefit of the community and while the decisions would not always be to the satisfaction of everyone, they were made democratically and for the best interests of the community as a whole.
Arguments for and against the mast were aired during the meeting.
Andrew Samuel, of Samuel and Son chartered surveyors, read out a statement from the Curtis family who used to own the land that became the recreation ground and who still own land around it.
The letter said the land was gifted to the parish some 95 years ago for two purposes, to provide a recreation area for all parishioners to use and enjoy, and as a memorial to parishioners who died in the Great War.
The family said the building of a telecommunications mast was a proposed change of use that did not fall within either of those purposes and was not in keeping with the wishes of the settlor.
“To erect this telecommunication mast is not in keeping with these wishes and it is our belief that if upheld and encouraged the proposed development will constitute a breach of Trust and, therefore, a breach of the Trustees obligations,” the statement said.
The family also questioned whether the council was representing the views of the majority when considering the mast proposal.
They urged councillors and trustees to pause and reflect before committing to any associated legal agreements with Shared Access, the company which has planning permission to build the mast.
Campaigners against the mast asked why letters were ignored, why they were told that if the mast wasn’t built on the recreation ground it would be built on neighbouring land and why an offer to set up a fund-raising group to raise £40,000, instead of allowing “desecration” of the memorial recreation ground, was ignored.
Chairman of the council and trustees Cllr Geoff Goggins said it had been a “mistake” to tell parishioners the mast would go on neighbouring land if it didn’t go on the recreation ground.
Clerk Ann Newton told a resident she was unable to answer health fears raised in a letter and that eventually she had received so much correspondence – not always of the best nature – that she had to stop answering emails.
Not everybody was against the mast. Peter Tipping from Framfield Nurseries read out a letter from Glenn and Caroline Squires, who, he said, had done a lot for the parish and community.
They said they had virtually no phone signal and they would therefore welcomed the mast. Small businesses, and the school needed the mast too.
The mother of a 13-year-old girl said the mast would enable her to give her daughter independence because she would have a means of calling home if there was a problem when she went out in the village.
Jimmy Jones said he was in the Royal Sussex Regiment, his brother was in Korea and his father was in World War 2. He understood what a memorial was, and what grieving was but he thought there was too much emphasis being put on the recreation ground being a memorial.
He asked why campaigners against the mast weren’t instead concerned about the road which ran through the village and which was more of a threat.
“I’m not for or against the mast. I just wish there could be a bit of calmness,” said Mr Jones.
Peter Berry, a school governor, said his first concern was in the health issue, particularly regarding children, and he was prepared to listen to any compelling evidence on health but there was none that he was worried about.
He felt strongly about councillors who were volunteers being put in a difficult position and said “I don’t like the tone of some of what has gone on at all.”
Mr Berry said a mast had been on his land for 25 years and since it had been installed it had been upgraded for use by all the emergency services, fire, police and ambulance, and he now felt almost duty-bound to keep it.
It did concern him that Framfield Recreation Ground was a memorial. He had helped look after graves of soldiers in the village, had missed only two memorial services at the church and supported the parish council in its efforts to keep the memorial hall going.
But the trees were planted in memory of soldiers who lost their lives in World War 1 and it was unrealistic to plant up to 50 trees for those also lost in World War 2 so he suggested building a copse in their memory.
Parish clerk Ann Newton read out a letter from Michael Harland, grandson of the late William Harland, who hadn’t realised that a tree was planted on the recreation ground in memory of his grandfather.
Mr Harland said his grandfather wasn’t buried locally but where he died in the service of his country and he didn’t think the recreation ground should be used as a shrine to him.
He thought the mast should be built while the proceeds from the lease of the land should be used for the benefit and enjoyment of everyone, through enabling the refurbishment of the adjacent memorial hall.
He didn’t see the pollarding of the tree dedicated to his grandfather being an obstacle to the installation and was hopeful that the works would instead enhance its life span.
Read more about opposition to the mast being built in previous Uckfield News stories:
Find local businesses in our Uckfield Directory