Category Archives: The Armando Martins Campaign

When Nightmare neighbours attacked Armando Martins and bragged about their “achievements” to the TV cameras Toxic Lives petitioned the council, exposed the behavioural issues, and provided an advocation service.

National Planning Policy Framework Review – Campaign Contribution

As an organisation our interest is not only to get justice for Armando.  The same treatment he had can apply to any radio amateur.  As Armando’s local Councillor inappropriately puts it, “if you put up an amateur radio antenna in your garden – you can expect people to have a go at it.”  (We say that is victim blaming.)

We also say it is our right to enjoy the use of our property.  The National Planning Policy Framework focuses on the needs of the community for housing.  At an individual level, the needs of radio users are simple; to be able to deploy our property – the antennas we buy or develop, on the property we own or rent.

National Planning Policy Framework Consultation

The Government Policy which rules the Planning Regime in UK is the National Planning Policy Framework 2012.

On 12th March 2018, the secretary of state for communities and planning announced a public consultation about a newly drafted version of this policy. (See link above). This ran from March to May 2018 and is now closed.

The Armando Martins Campaign has consulted with the Radio Society of Great Britain over many of the issues he faced.  We see eye to eye on a number of issues.

The problem in a nutshell is, the current framework excludes amateur radio as an entity.  Amateur Antenna experimenters have to apply the rules for housing extensions, conservatories, sheds and garages.  This limits the height and size available to a particular “virtual box” dependent on the size of the property.  Council workers dealing with radio amateurs have no knowledge about  amateur radio and are expected to make planning decisions etc.  Successive re-writes of this policy have eliminated the needs of radio amateurs – making life more and more difficult.

It follows that to rectify this for the future, some improvements were needed to the policy, to improve relevance and define further the needs of radio amateurs.

The campaign was able to contribute as an organisation to the final version of the National Planning Policy Framework 2018.  It asked for several amendments and shared information with the RSGB who agreed the suitability of those relating to amateur radio and telecommunications.

Amendments Improving Relevance to Part 10 Supporting High Quality Telecommunications

Firstly, where the draft states at Para 112 – Planning Policies and Decisions should support the expansion of electronic communications networks.

We asked to insert – that these are usually regulated by OFCOM.

By inserting this it would make it clear that amateur antenna developments would be included in planning policy.

Secondly the draft covers a number of situations applicable to telecommunications services at Para 115:

We asked to insert a new paragraph after para 115 c) as follows:

d) Applications for planning permission to install the masts often used by amateur radio operators, radio taxi firms and other private and commercial users, usually present few potential planning problems in terms of size and visual impact over a wide area and will not normally be of such a scale as to have a serious impact on local amenity. Such applicants will generally have less scope for using alternative sites or for sharing sites, and masts will often need to be located on the premises.

By inserting this, it would help resolve issues where scale and amenity were being misquoted in order to resist planning applications.

Enforcement

Where we don’t see eye to eye with RSGB has been in the field of abusive neighbours and nimbyism,  There is a tendency for victim blaming here.  Too often we hear you have to keep in with the neighbours and while we support that whole heartedly it is not appropriate to have to resort to bribery to avoid emotional abuse, as several amateurs have reported to us.  Where neighbours have taken advantage of planning regulations to abuse us by making anonymous complaints for example.   We therefore have also asked for the enforcement regulations to be centralised (one Policy for all areas), and gave feedback as to the requirement to have a system that could not be abused.

The consultation ended on 8th May 2018 and we are now waiting to see if our effort had any impact.  There’s a chance it may not.

The revised policy as it stands is a welcome change and if all goes well, we will be able to close the campaign on the strength of it, having made all of our points.   We asked RSGB to query the right to develop in the space above a property which was included in the policy.

Best wishes,

 

Stuart Dixon

Open Letter: Defective Processes Applied to Amateur Radio Antenna by Councils

To whom it may concern,

Canterbury, Kent. 8th December 2017

This year we have been tracking Armando Martins (M0PAM), a radio amateur, in his engagements with Canterbury City Council as he applies the planning process to the antennas he wishes to erect in the garden of his council accommodation.

Blanket Ban

We followed up on three incidents amounting to a blanket ban on all types of amateur radio antenna by the council housing department.  This ban was unlawful, and infringed his rights under the National Planning Policy Framework, Town and Country Planning Act and its associated General Permitted Development Order, et al. 

We think what happened was initially a gross misuse of the planning system instigated by his neighbours.  We say a professional organisation with the city councils resources would have prevented this misuse, rather than being drawn into it.  What made it possible was a complete lack of understanding of the acts and council policy, by council workers.

Raising the Issues

On the first occasion we studied what had happened and on the second and third occasions we took the time to work with the council to test and develop the necessary understanding.  (However its too early to tell whether this work has created a lasting and permanent change).

Moving on

Now Armando is in the process of applying for planning permission and finds his application is on the verge of being refused.  There are some discrepancies in the way his application has been handled.

Emotionally, this year has been a very worrying and stressful time, being micromanaged by council officials for several years has affected his life.  We say, when nobody knows how long they have on the planet who would want to waste their time struggling with their local council in a distorted process?  We have heard from people who have simply given up in frustration when it should be clear cut.

Because of the combined experience of Armando and others we think in some parts of the country the process is in disarray and therefore open to abuse.  It could be different.

Me Too

To gain this view we followed up various situations where other peoples neighbours have abused the planning process with the intention to cause difficulty.  We think this practice is undesirable and part of a crime, when harassment is intended.

Why Abuse?

It goes wrong when unwarranted complaints are accepted and supported by untrained housing officers, and then arbitrarily enforced, without first checking whether the complaint is abusive or relevant.  What happens is the abuser is gratified, when actually they should be made to account for their actions – wasting council time etc.

Abuse is facilitated when councils do not share the complainers details with the victim.  The fact is the council people who could prevent the abuse, work in different silos and don’t consult with each other.  The worst possible impact is on vulnerable people, or the victims of – persistent unwanted behaviour intended to cause harm – a.k.a Stalking.  Harm because complaints cause stress and are hard to deal with.

In more than one of our case studies, one neighbour in a community is inflicting unwanted and emotional abuse on another, using the council to achieve it,  and at the taxpayers expense.

We acknowledge that there is just as much chance that a council worker is making a bad decision, for example to refuse to give permission for a permitted development, based on sparse knowledge of the process (passing the buck to the planning department) etc.  This can also feel abusive.  We have cited contravention of the wishes of the SOS for Health and the SOS for Community and Planning as further reasons why this process needs to change.

Defective Planning Process

From what Armando says, the process in Canterbury is secretive and political.  The planning department is under pressure of work (high case load) and refuses to share data with him at this stage on those grounds.  This removes the opportunity to anticipate, amend and resubmit his plans.  Because of this and previous experience we think the process in use at CCC lacks openness and transparency, has little substance and is open to further abuse from arbitrary decision making.  As new cases come to light on a monthly basis we ask:

Isn’t it time this defective process was fixed?

Best Wishes,

Stuart Dixon MBCS, GCGI, MInstLM (G4IYK), R MacDonald (2E0ATZ), Armando Martins – (M0PAM),

The Armando Martins Campaign

at change.org

Our petitioners Said

Appendices:

1. Surveys and Data
2. What we Want (Airing a possible Solution)

Appendix 1 – Surveys and Data

Case Studies 1 and 2.  Please note our two previous case studies,  Armando Martins being number 1, and Number 2 which, is now subject to legal action by the police.  We visited and spoke to three radio amateurs both living in separate areas of the South of England who all agreed to give further examples we could use of what is thought to be a growing problem.

Case Study 3.  On a recent weekend, a 65 year old disabled person, living alone, was removing his antenna after receiving intimidating and threatening letters from Bexley Council.  He removed an antenna which was well within his rights to retain because “he didn’t want the hassle”.  He thinks the councils action was initiated by a neighbour who has demonstrated controlling behaviour towards him going back several decades.  Interestingly they agreed the antenna was lawful, but suggested he had to re-apply for planning permission as the polarisation had changed from vertical to horizontal.  (The top part of the installation, from upright to flat.) even though this reduced the height and made it less conspicuous.

As planning comes at a cost of £180 he has curtailed activity on the six meter amateur band.  The work of taking it down, although on this occasion by volunteers, could have cost him a few hundred pounds.  Note Hassle = Further intimidation.  He thinks he would not be in this position, nor would the council have incurred costs but for the inappropriate and anonymous action of a neighbour, deliberately designed to put him out and intimidate or humiliate him.

Case Study 4.  In Gravesend,  a 76 year old retired and disabled gentleman who lives with his wife and two dogs has received unwanted attention and criticism from a next door neighbour for several years.  Although unrelated, now an anonymous caller has left several trademark calling cards on his doorstep over the last few months, obviously related to his hobby.  This is unwanted behaviour designed to cause fear and as such not a joke.  He notes he is losing the support of his wife who doesn’t want the hassle, in common with the victim in Case Study 2.  He said he doesn’t understand how the council can take action against radio amateurs but ignore the gangs of youths roaming the streets at night setting off fireworks upsetting his dogs.

Case Study 5. This is an elderly blind and disabled person living in Sheltered Accommodation in Southampton who the council will not support to erect a simple wire antenna.  He writes “I think I’m beyond helping. I’m disabled and in supervised housing. Been licensed since 1972. RSGB recommend a “magmount on a tea tray”. RAIBC can’t help. I don’t want much but the council say Radio Amateurs interfere with tv hence ‘no’.

A similar case has developed recently in Portsmouth.

Comments from Petition Responders.  Several comments received from responders to the Armando Martins Campaign support these case studies.

Social media contains more data to support the view that there is a growing problem.  Some news reports have been taken into account.

One of the issues is costs to the local councils, police and magistrates who all have much better things to spend time and money on.  While local areas are full of rubbish, all find it difficult to see how council officials can waste time on this.

Appendix 2 What We Want (Airing a Possible Solution)

Basically what this campaign wants is for a fair and equitable process:

  • Councils to stop issuing inappropriate “enforcement” orders. 

As these can be life changing if misused, these should only come from experts and be supported by objective measurements set within the process.

We identify anti-social behaviour as one source of these inappropriate actions.  Radio users in the community are easy targets for controlling behaviour (aka Goal Blocking).  (This applies to many kinds of development, not just ham radio.)  Malicious attacks often come in the form of anonymous reports which use enforcement action as a means of delivery.  Council Workers at the lower level are not trained to respond appropriately, identify compliance with the various acts or recognise anti-social aspects.  They themselves are in danger of being drawn in by unfounded complaints and\or committing an act themselves.

  • Policy Change. 

We want all council officials to be armed with a policy that prevents stressful goal blocking by neighbours and putting the cost of resolution back to the initiator of complaints.  We think Initiators of complaints to the council must identify themselves at the outset, first and foremost to the owner of the alleged offending object. They must then take appropriate action before engaging the council, i.e. they must show evidence of mediation and proof of a breach before councils act.  This puts the burden of proof of any allegation, on the person making it.

(It’s not just about amateur radio – its common sense applicable to all sorts of common garden objects.  This measure will save councils money and focus council workers on more pressing matters.  This will help combat\prevent neighbour stalking).

  • Reinstatement of PPG8 at a local level.

PPG8 was the only succinct and humane document that could possibly prevent the misuse of council enforcement.  (It must be improved on and re-instated(RSGB).

The root cause of this is obscure documentation about planning requirements which identify TV and Domestic Antenna and put de-minimis and permitted Amateur Radio Antennae developments into the same class as you would expect to use for an outbuilding, conservatory or house extension.  Radio users are not property developers.  Council workers who are not experts can be easily misled into thinking there is no such thing in planning law as an amateur radio antenna.

  • RSGB to take a role

We think the RSGB should be more open about the current problems coming forward and the impact of localism.  We think there are opportunities for change and it must have an action plan.  It should at least stand up for radio amateurs.  We suggest it starts by educating them, via its regional network to assert their heritage and rights into local plans.

Also from the RSGB and our councils we want a fair and timely, modern process that operates 24/7 and includes tenancy matters in its processes. An accurate digital system would save all  time and effort and reduce the number of volunteers needed by RSGB.

We realise a FAQ may settle many issues and ours is set out already.  RSGB to review and adopt this as part of the  their process.

Stuart Dixon

Frequently Asked Questions about Amateur Radio Stations for Neighbours and Communities

Where does Amateur and hobby Radio fit into our Community? 

According to the minister responsible for planning in the UK, Amateur Radio is a service much the same as your mobile phone, radio or TV service.  He (or she) provides a planning service that allows for the sustainable development of communities and which is determined locally by the community.  Nationally, it regulates building in communities, and this includes telecommunications and therefore amateur radio.

Amateur radio has its own heritage, built up over a century or more by people in local communities.  Professionally our armed services have relied heavily on developments by radio amateurs to win wars, and it has welcomed radio operators into service, who have been part of the amateur radio community.  This is still relevant today.

Amateur Radio gives people a choice to expand their knowledge of the world, develop skills and have some fun in their lives.  As a hobby, it is practised for both professional and personal development (OFCOM)  in many and diverse communities.  In its basic form it involves learning how to operate a radio station and make contact between nations, at a community level (RSGB).  People have practised amateur radio for over a century in the community and today there are 85,000 people in the UK qualified at various levels of proficiency.  Its not all about radio, it can be about diversity, promoting community relations and physical and mental health (NHS).  Amateur radio is often used to augment the emergency services communications at a community level, local events such as park runs may be controlled by radio amateurs for example leaving the police free to concentrate on other work.  Radio amateurs exercise jointly with the local police and emergency planning departments.  They provide much needed global and local communications during disasters and emergencies according to the united nations.  Some people qualify to teach both young and older people to take up the hobby and radio amateurs often take part in local events and community projects to demonstrate the benefits and take pride in their achievements.  Local clubs are organised.

Recently when Astronaut Tim Peake was in orbit, the RSGB organised a number of events for schools throughout the country wishing to learn about technology and earth\space communications.  The children were able to speak to Tim.  This opportunity showcased the electronics and space industry encouraging children into the workforce as well as teaching them about how they can do it themselves from the community.

Why are you publishing these Frequently Asked Questions about Amateur Radio?

This FAQ is for members of the public living close by to radio amateurs who may have questions about the installation of equipment around the property they occupy.  It is also designed as a guideline for council workers dealing with complaints and for radio amateurs to consider when planning a system and dealing with neighbours.  It is NOT intended to become the frequently asked questions on planning matters.

Is this FAQ only applicable to Amateur Radio?

No.  Other forms of hobby radio are found in operation in the back yards of UK Citizens.  This FAQ applies equally to those authorised by OFCOM, namely citizens band (CB) and private mobile radio aka PMR.

With thanks to an unknown artist this cartoon illustrates that neighbours may sometimes go to extreme lengths to discover what is going on in amateur radio stations in their community.

Who is the leading authority on planning matters related to Amateur Radio installations?

The Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) is the authoritative source for all enquiries about planning matters and amateur radio antennas.

Does the RSGB represent all radio amateurs?

No.  Only members of the RSGB.  It does not normally represent CB or PMR Users unless they have a radio amateurs licence and are a member.

What are the benefits of Radio Hobbies to Health and Well-being?

The Chief Medical Officer (NHS), Mind and NHS Mental Health Trusts all recommend taking up a hobby.  This is especially important in later years.  It will help you to manage loneliness and keep your mind and body fit and active.  With radio hobbies you can generate a lot of fun and keep in touch with a community of like minded people who enjoy experimenting in radio, TV, satellite and data communications or just chatting.  A few hours a day, spent in the company of others or building a radio project are likely to be very satisfying, produce regular contact with people and release more of the essential hormones into your brain, than any anti-depressant tablet.  Radio sports are available and radio amateurs can keep physically fit by operating portable from hill top sites.  There is always something new to learn or challenge to achieve.

For some further thoughts on the benefits of hobbies Here is a link to Age UKs Men in Sheds Project

What do Radio Hams do in their Spare Time?

One facet of the hobby that many amateurs enjoy is building and testing antenna systems that give their station optimum performance.  Radio Hams can operate in contests and gain certificates for the number of people or countries contacted etc.  They really want to have the best radio station they can afford that keeps them in touch with their community of like minded people, and they mainly spend time comparing signals, sending data, (Text or video) voice and morse code transmissions around the world.   As amateur radio is a service, he or she may be required to take part in disaster relief operations or assist the emergency services or red cross.  As amateur radio is a self training service the radio amateur will be learning and teaching others or simply discussing the match or family matters.   One British radio amateur kept the Falkland Islands Radio Station Live and gave a running commentary on the Argentinian invasion in 1982 – up until he was captured.

What is that Wire or Antenna?

To receive or transmit radio signals an antenna or antenna system is required.  In domestic radio sets the antenna can be very simple and built into the set itself.  To transmit a radio signal however requires an efficient antenna which can only perform well if it is constructed correctly.

Why does the antenna have to be so Large or Long?

To perform correctly the parts of the antenna that radiate a signal must be the correct length for the frequency in use.  As amateur radio uses radio waves of wavelength from 160m to a few centimetres in length, (divided up into a number of “bands” like the medium wave band or VHF Band).  For transmitting, the antenna length is critical for any given frequency and it can be quite long.  Each band requires a different antenna length.  Some compromise antennas have been developed that are shorter and more compact however performance may be an issue for some when it comes to using a compromise antenna.

Why are there so many different antennas in your system?

Amateurs use Long, Medium and Short Waves.  They also use Very High Frequency (VHF) and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) or 70cm.  Some amateur VHF and UHF Antenna resemble domestic VHF FM radio and TV Antennas.  The amateur experimenter will want to experiment with a variety of different antenna and radio sets which cover the frequencies he or she is interested in.  CB’ers use fixed length antenna, limited by their code of practice, as do PMR users.

What type of radiation does the antenna give off?

An antenna is said to radiate energy in the form of an electric or magnetic field.  This is non ionising radiation.  Antenna are usually designed to send out the maximum signal power all round or in a given direction.  Simple vertical antennas radiate all of the power in a circular pattern around it, (It stands to reason that if you are stood in a point on the circumference of a circle you will receive a charge equivalent to a very small part of the actual power transmitted from a vertical antenna.)

Many designs are arranged to push (or radiate) the maximum signal in a given direction while radiating none in others.  You may see such antenna being  pointed in a particular direction by a device known as a rotator which is used to point it at the other radio station.  These often resemble TV or domestic radio receiving antenna (which all point the same way – towards the TV transmitter).  FM Domestic radio antenna often benefit from a rotator to point it at the required station.  Its a way to receive the best signal for Hi-Fi enthusiasts.  CB antenna are designed to limit the power being radiated to a very low level.

What power does an amateur radio station produce?

In order to radiate or transmit a radio signal, an amateur has a choice of power levels usually ranging from low power, measured in milliwatts (which would light a torch bulb) and going up typically to one hundred watts – the same power as a household electric light bulb.  Amateurs are trained to keep power levels down as a condition of their licence.  Some amateur radio stations operate to legal limits of four hundred watts, for maximum performance.  Safety is also a part of the amateur radio exam syllabus.

Most amateur radio stations operate at power levels many times lower than those required to cause any harmful physiological effects – such as you would get from a nine hundred watt microwave oven if it was operated incorrectly for example.  Many radio amateurs live long lives working and playing with radio waves and suffer no ill effects.  CB Radios are designed to radiate limited, very low power levels in conjunction with a limited range of antennas so there is no danger that a CB or PMR radio will form a hazard and little chance it will interfere with other services like broadband and television sets (unless it is being operated illegally or misused).

Why does the antenna have to be so high?

Antennas that are in the clear from surrounding objects have a better chance of radiating as much power as possible in the required direction.  Sometimes signals are blocked by objects and the antenna is constructed to get the signal over any obstacles.

Can you do all that from a council house garden the size of a postage stamp?

Many amateur and CB radio operators operate from all sorts of properties ranging from flats and bungalows with small gardens, to medium sized properties in housing estates.  Some amateurs are lucky enough to buy their properties with a reasonable amount of real estate to accommodate their antenna systems, located in the best position to maximise signals.  The majority live in average size properties and design their antenna systems to take into account the space available.  Others rely on the generosity of their neighbours, who usually help by making allowances, such as being able to spread the antenna out across neighbouring properties.  Good neighbours are supportive in this respect and usually enjoy hearing what it’s about.

Do I have to put up with that eyesore in your Garden?

Antennas at the lower end of the frequency range tend to be constructed of copper wire and usually these are laid horizontally the same as telegraph wires.  As frequencies rise, the possibility to use copper, aluminium, wood and steel in the construction arises, giving a number of advantages.  Radio amateurs generally buy commercial antenna equipment which is well designed and engineered.  They realise that having structures to support the antenna in the garden is not “everybody’s cup of tea” but unless the property is in an area of outstanding natural beauty there will almost certainly be other radio masts nearby.  There are always pylons, telegraph poles or street level mobile phone antennas in any district.  These are allowed to exist under planning law.  They support your mobile phone or electricity supply or personal communications (landline or Broadband).  Most of these are in broad view at the front of our homes and earn revenue for their owners.  Compared to these objects, most amateur radio antennas are located out of the public gaze, in our back gardens according to the minister for planning.

Before labelling an amateur radio antenna an eyesore you should look around the local area.  If it contains uncollected rubbish, dumped scrap vehicles or has any of the objects in this discussion then we think it only fair to review it in context.  The average solar power installation or wind generator is much more visible than the average amateur radio antenna which can be designed to blend in at the rear of the property – unlike most solar installations.  Most amateurs would view their antenna and any supporting structure required to position or hold it at the correct height as essential to their hobby and therefore their lives.  They pride themselves in engineering (and camouflaging) the system and will happily “live and let live” with whatever their neighbours construct in their gardens.  Also there is no law to say a neighbour is entitled to a view across his neighbours property.

Will it cause interference to my TV or Radio?

It may, this is usually due to a defective TV or Radio set.  In order to be immune to radio frequency interference, domestic equipment must be designed and produced to a standard.  When this standard is not adhered to, equipment may succumb to nearby radio signals.

To limit the chance of interfering, Radio Hams are obliged to comply with licensing laws while CB’ers are required to obey a code of practice provided by the licensing authority, OFCOM.  For amateur radio these rules state the radio station must not cause interference.  Hams are trained to avoid interfering and have access to technical resources to help them (RSGB).  CB’ers are limited by the power level of the radio and its antenna, complying with regulations

Who do I call if I find my broadband, radio or TV is being interfered with?

Your broadband service provider is well equipped to locate sources of interference.  They have powers that enable them to investigate and advise the owner of defective equipment interfering with their services.  The may ask the owner to close down and or modify any sources of interference found operating near their users equipment.  They should be the first port of call in any complaint involving broadband.

The BBC are responsible for complaints about interference to TV and Radio.  OFCOM provides a service and you can contact them or the BBC through their web portal here.

Will the council be able to help if I have a complaint?

Only where there is a planning or public safety issue.  Local councils are not equipped or trained to deal with interference.  You should approach the appropriate services and the council should direct you to them (see above).  See questions related to planning below.

What can I do if I am approached by the council as a result of a complaint by a neighbour?  

You should mention If:

  • You have been approached by any of your neighbours or,
  • You have not been approached by a neighbour with a complaint or
  • You are in any sort of dispute with a neighbour.

What if the council write to me about my antenna asking me to take it down or remove it?

You are not obliged to take it down unless an enforcement notice is served and then you have a right to appeal against the enforcement.  If you do receive an enforcement notice then  See Page 82 of RADCOM March 2018 for an article entitled an Unexpected Visitor.  (this link may not be available yet and is only available to radio amateurs who have registered with the RSGB).  Initially you should enter into a constructive dialog about your development with the official concerned.  If you have constructed a de-minimis or permitted development point that out to begin with.

Is there a code of practice covering backyard antenna construction?

Yes.  See the March 2018 Edition of RADCOM at the link above for further details.  Like everyone we are obliged to get on with our neighbours.  But we aren’t obliged to put up with certain types of behaviour.

The amateur radio code of practice is about maintaining friendly relations.  This is the best situation of all because it creates an atmosphere of co-operation between neighbours.  This is known as cohesion.

What if my neighbour is behaving badly towards me or my family? 

If you think your neighbour is behaving badly you are entitled to take action.  Certain behaviour can be persistent or unwanted such as trespass, criminal damage or excessive surveillance, and may themselves lead to further unwanted behaviour.  This can be criminal behaviour under the freedom from harassment act et al.  The Suzy Lamplugh Trust runs the National Stalking Helpline and can help you to decide how to tackle it.

Who should I go to if I have a complaint about a radio antenna?

Firstly find out if it legal or not by approaching the constructor.  Although planning regulations may not explicitly say whether a particular type of antenna is permitted or not, the amateur constructor is subject to planning law, which allows permitted developments for example.  The amateur radio code of practice covers planning regulations.  Individual citizens are entitled to deal with complaints about them or their property.  The complainer should first approach the neighbour with a view to rectifying any perceived problem.  He or she should also think about mediation and gathering evidence about any perceived wrong doing before before taking a complaint to the council or reporting the object to the planning department.

What if I find my antenna subject to spurious or malicious complaints?

Where a complainer is anonymous, persistent, multiple, direct to an authority or comes from one or more neighbours it will be seen as anti social.  In these circumstances the recipient may feel that it is persistent unwanted behaviour or stalking or harassment.

At the outset, he or she will keep a log of all dates and timings, notes of any conversations and the outcomes and also retain all correspondence.  There is a right to video or record the conversation for the record.

Will my own devices, radio or TV interfere with an amateur radio station?

They may.  A number of domestic devices such as computers, network equipment (Wifi Routers, power line network extenders etc) LED Lights, Street lights and other electronic devices, if defective, will cause interference to an amateur radio station.  OFCOM are the authority for tracking and dealing with interference from such devices, which are usually defective or sub-standard in their design or build.

Does Amateur or Hobby radio Transmissions Cause Cancer?

There is no evidence that Amateur Radio causes cancer or any other illness.  Many amateur radio operators spend much of their lives working in professional and amateur communication and have subsequently been exposed to Radio Frequency (RF) Radiation for long periods of time.  They also have lived to an old age.  While direct exposure to high power radio signals can cause physical injury such as RF burns.  Amateur radio is governed by health and safety instructions and safe power limits are set.  Additionally Radio hams have to answer questions in an examination before being allowed to operate.  They are also subject to inspection.  CB’ers and PMR users are limited to very low transmitting power.

Further reading:  https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/radiation/cell-phones-fact-sheet which states that “Radio frequency (RF) energy, unlike ionizing radiation, does not cause DNA damage that can lead to cancer”.

What are the most common examples of Radio Transmitters in use in the UK?

All emergency services people have personal radio sets and operate mobile sets from the car as well as carrying mobile phones.  Wifi covers almost the entire country and their low power transmitters are installed in most houses.  There are two mobile phones for every man woman and child in Great Britain and to support these there are transmitters located by several mobile phone companies in most urban areas, (that’s housing estates and town centres.) as well as hilltop sites.  Citizens Band and Private Mobile Radio.  There are less amateur radio transmitters than all of these services.

Do Amateur Radio or Hobby radios affect Cardiac Pacemakers?

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/PacemakerImplantation/Pages/riskpage.aspx is the NHS FAQ regarding Pacemakers.  According to this, the chances of a problem with the pacemaker itself are low.  Any signs and symptoms which you think are related to a pacemaker should be checked by a doctor straight away for a diagnosis.

Is your antenna insured for public liability?

Radio amateurs have access to public liability insurance.

Is your antenna system safe?

There is a wealth of information about safety available to radio amateurs and training and support available via relevant experts when dealing with the physical construction of an antenna.  Amateurs are allowed to construct supports under the terms of the town and country planning act, and sometimes these can look quite substantial.  The constructor should always consult a builder and plan his supports according to standards.

All of these topics including Health and Safety are covered in the syllabus of the amateur radio exams.  Before raising any concerns to the authorities, please ask the owner about the individual design if you are interested in its safety aspects.  An amateur should be able to show you documents relating to most aspects of his radio station including its design specification.

Will your antenna system attract lightning?

It may.  So may your house, high buildings or street furniture (lamp posts etc).  Fortunately lightning strikes to amateur radio antenna are reasonably rare and precautions are available to protect equipment connected to the antenna.  Even if the antenna is higher than the surrounding properties it does not necessarily follow that it will be hit before anything else in the area.

Other than planning law, do radio amateurs have to comply with any other regulations?

In council housing or rented accommodation, non domestic radio antennas are sometimes classed as alterations to the building and need the permission of the landlord before being constructed.  The landlord may wish the radio amateur to prove that they have planning permission or an exemption if it is available.  For council tenants you may ask the council for a copy of their rules.  See also RADCOM March 2018 an Unexpected Visitor.

What are the most common nuisances that can be attributed to amateur radio antenna?

Noise.  Often people complain about noise from the antenna wires or structure caused by the wind.  As this is only a problem usually when it is windy, or the location is extremely remote and exposed, occasions when it occurs will be few and far between.  Moreover it will be unlikely that this type of noise is solely attributable to the antenna, but may come from telegraph wires or the buildings surrounding the antenna themselves.  If you can hear the Ham next door getting excited or talking loudly to his compatriots, then you might like to measure the noise level before raising a complaint to the council or have them measure it.   It would be fair to consider some level of sound proofing but most hams would be prepared to carry out changes to their own property or operating hours in order not to inconvenience our neighbours.  (As data transmissions is an available choice you may never hear any noise as this is carried out via a keyboard and screen.)

What forms of nuisance are suffered by radio amateurs?

Fake News.   Radio is a technical hobby.  It requires study of the underlying theory behind it.  There is an epidemic of fake news in the media, made famous by the US President Donald Trump.  Usually this is designed to cause trouble by presenting unsubstantiated facts of dubious origin.  Before responding to any sources of information it is best to consult an authoritative source before drawing any conclusions.

Malicious reports  about antenna on the amateurs property.   See www.strugl.org

Faulty or poorly designed equipment. In neighbouring properties, equipment often causes interference to the amateur radio service.  If you are approached by or on behalf of an amateur radio service user they may ask you to help to test for sources of “noise” caused by defective equipment.  This is usually quite simple and involves switching it off to help identify the source.  If faulty or noisy equipment is identified during the test, they may ask you to repair or replace it or offer to help you to do so, by paying for the repair for example.  Do I have to cooperate if I am asked to switch off offending equipment?  You do.  Under the wireless telegraphy act, it is an offence to interfere with radio and tv services and he may ask OFCOM to investigate it.  They may serve an enforcement notice.

What planning process is applicable to amateur and hobby radio?

The same process applicable to property developments in the UK.

A summary can be found at the planning portal.  While this is simplified for the general public, it is not complete.  Planning requirements are actually set out in a document called the general permitted development order (GPDO).

This sets out what are permitted developments and what are not.

In the GPDO, where can I find the information needed to plan an Amateur Radio Antenna?

You won’t.  The section that covers amateur radio is Part 1 Schedule 2, class A and E. Class E covers free-standing masts, poles or antennas and Class A, if it is attached to the dwelling (and, therefore, counts as an ‘extension’ to it).

According to the GPDO, Amateur radio antenna are treated as a development the same as a conservatory or extension or anything else. This is confusing as elsewhere in the GPDO it describes various antenna (Domestic TV, Radio and Microwave). Telecommunications has its own section etc.

What common mistakes do neighbours, planning and housing officials make when dealing with hobby and amateur radio transmitting antennas?  

One common mistake is to assume because a specific type of radio transmitting antenna is not covered anywhere in the GPDO it is not allowed.

What other documents are there?  

You will not find an amateur radio antenna described anywhere in the GPDO, but you will in an obsolescent guideline called PPG8 Telecommunications. In 2012 the National Planning Policy Framework came out and changed a number of things.

Your area can be further limited by a local order in which case the council has further controls in place and you need to ask them. (You can find out online if you go through the pre-planning stages of applying for planning permission).

Do radio amateurs need planning permission for everything?

Amateur radio antennae fall into a number of classes; Permitted developments, temporary and de minimis solutions require no planning permission.

When does an amateur need planning permission for an antenna?

Planning permission is needed if a development exceeds the dimensions set out in the GPDO.

What are Local Plans?

SInce 2012 councils have been obliged to consult everyone in the community about their planning needs and Produce Local Plans that supersede PPG8 and other planning documents.   In reality councils are only just submitting local plans as of 2017.  They may not have consulted local radio amateurs.  This situation is not ideal.  If you find yourself as a radio amateur subject to draconian measures by council officials, then read your planning authorities local plan.

What is De-minimis and how does that relate to an amateur radio antenna?

De minimis relates to simple things that any judge would throw out of court as being a waste of time and money to argue over.  Simple developments such as wire and vertical antenna are covered in PPG8 and are also de-minimis.

Who can help me to determine whether and amateur radio antenna requires planning permission?

The RSGB recommends they are the first stop when planning an antenna.  They will advise what category various solutions fall into and if planning permission is needed.  They have local resources who know local regulations and which are likely to be enforced.  You may also make your own mind up as many people do however following the consultation process and the pre-planning process they recommend can help avoid challenging situations.  

A neighbour has challenged my radio antenna – what are their rights?

No neighbour has the right to an unspoiled view across your property.
If the neighbours challenge your chosen solution, then they will obviously report it to the planning department if they don’t speak to you first. (See mischievous complaints above).  Should this happen, then you might get told to apply for planning permission if it doesn’t meet the criteria set out in the GPDO.  Also if you put up a solution that does require planning permission and it has been up four years, planning will issue you a note to say you don’t need it.

What can I do about mischievous complaints?

Often an early sign that a neighbour is up to mischief are questions related to planning and your development.  Some neighbours will openly watch your property for developments and measure them while you are not there.  If the neighbour has let you know his feelings towards your antenna make sure when visited by any official that you mention you have a neighbour with some kind of grudge against your developments.  Some councils have effective anti social behaviour policies that will prevent them from enforcement action if you are being harassed by a neighbour.  Others don’t.  Keep a harassment diary.

Do I have a say in what developments are permitted in my area?

Yes you do.  Local Government must canvas people in the community when setting out local development plans.  If you are an amateur, or CB’er or avid dog walker etc, this is an opportunity to make sure your views are heard and that our heritage is respected by the community.

 

Do I have to have my neighbours permission to put up an amateur radio or CB antenna?

Only if its on their property.  Check your deeds or contract.  What you do on your property is your business but if it is rented you must seek your landlords permission.  If you own the property you should obey or address any covenants (listed in the deeds).

As part of the planning process you will have to canvass the neighbours for their views on any planning applications you submit.

Do Radio Amateurs have a sense of Humour?  

We think so, after all its a hobby and humour is part of enjoying your life.

With thanks to Hatlo for this image from ca 1935 Radio amateurs have traditionally taken the blame for some very unusual things.

Copyright: SDPlus 2017 and the Armando Martins Campaign.  Not to be reproduced without permission of the author.

 

 

 

Friend or Foe? What Toxic People do at Work, School or at Home

It can be pretty hard to tell whether our neighbours, school mates or work colleagues are our enemies or our friends.  This is due to a number of human characteristics.  As we progress through life we are drilled into teams and indoctrinated to believe cooperation and competition are healthy.   (Sometimes things are won by fair means or foul((but thats OK provided you are the winner)).  Life revolves around getting on with people i.e. you must fit in, otherwise we are at fault and are rejected.  Really.  Because of this sometimes we put our trust in people we should not and our friends turn out to be anything but friendly.  When people are your enemy you may never know what they are doing, actively or passively to work against you, but when they do it can have a devastating effect on your life.  You would need to be a detective to be alert to the danger of allowing the wrong people access to your life, your property, your work or your wealth.  You hear all the time in the news, Be alert!  Scammers are teaming up to to rob people by masquerading as officials to inspect their property and while one of them keeps you busy the other is robbing your purse.  One cyber security expert thinks that the internet is a dangerous place – he opens his lectures by airing the startling fact that 99.99999998% of people are your enemies and out for themselves, to steal from you or damage you in some way to their advantage and he then asks would you let them in your front door?  Before outlining the type of security measures needed to keep people out of your computer.

Am I Just being Paranoid?

Most people when they air concerns about people acting against them will come across the re-assurance of their “friends” telling them “you are just being paranoid”.  The late Dr Tim Field said that it would be naive, not to apply a level of vigilance to your life, your property and your wealth.   Yet paranoia is a mental illness and this is used in a derogatory way to disarm careful people by introducing doubt about the way they think.  He introduced the fact that hyper-vigilance which is similar to paranoia as a symptom of PTSD which people who have been traumatised feel when they are reminded of the events.  (People who have been bullied will also have flashbacks, and sleepless nights from their experiences.)

Motivation

Humans take pride in their achievements but among our emotions are jealously and envy.  People are motivated by their activities and achievements, be it a job well done, a new creation at home or in the garden, a new acquisition, reaching a particular level in sport or games or showing courage and leadership.  All of these signal success.  Our friends are people who share that success and partner with us to achieve it, they share our achievements and support us to meet our goals.  There are a number of sides to this:  If you are selfish and don’t share credit or recognise the contribution of others, you would pretty soon demotivate your friends if you weren’t careful.  Also it is easy to see that if people aren’t included in the activity they can become jealous or envious of an achievement and want to copy it or own it themselves – no problem if  they know how, but the deviant may steal it or usurp the credit.  People lead by setting examples, successful people teach and mentor others.

Live and Let Live

Normal is being able to recognise that some people get to the head of the queue before others and that is their life.  Accepting your place in the hierarchy and making your own way in the world give satisfaction.  Exceptionally handing your achievements to an exceptional team member or some body who needs it more than you are a sign of distinction.  When negative emotions come together, people with good emotional skills can recognise and deal with it – using tact and diplomacy for example.  We live and let live.

Some people however cheat and steal their way to the head of the queue, and take advantage of others – after all – all is fair in love and war.  These people think nothing of others and focus everything on themselves, acting to the detriment of whoever is in the way.  They are out to steal your life if they can get it, or destroy it.  Their aim is to put you further down the hierarchy than them.  Often because they can’t dominate you or achieve superiority fairly, toxic people will resort to devious means.  Sometimes this type of behavior can be fun,  (when its between equals and without ego) often it can be to teach a lesson.  When a toxic character is active their actions may be covert, malicious acts, hidden from you perhaps disguised as fun or banter, or it can be overt, designed to humiliate you in public for example.  Focusing on the malicious behaviour of toxic people, the ultimate aim is destruction by eroding the targets self esteem and confidence.  A number of techniques are available for this purpose.

What sort of activities do our enemies get up to?

Toxic Work Places.  

Deviant toxic bosses create stress by: Setting work targets that are un-achievable, withdrawing funds and support or by forcing their victim to go through stressful, prolonged and repetitive work processes.  They can engineer bad feedback in annual reports or threaten to by-pass the law by giving bad verbal references limiting peoples careers.  They may also resort to goal blocking – actively and covertly preventing people from meeting their target(s) or interfering with their motivational projects.  The pleasure these people get is from watching people struggle and the satisfaction of promoting their sycophants above good people – because their social skills are “better”.   In the NHS the author has observed untrained and inexperienced sycophants taking over their colleagues jobs after the colleague had been successful at it for a number of years.  This particular tool gives senior managers in the NHS the opportunity to by-pass legitimate promotion routes and give jobs to their favourite employees – in return for favours.  Many people feel let down by this in the NHS, and for that reason the NHS is viewed as a toxic workplace.  It spends a lot of money countering this by spinning it and covering it up with taboos.  The NHS says it is out to change this culture, but resistance is high among people who would lose power if it did.  In the authors experience, having a toxic boss in your life limits it – even if that person eventually reveals himself as criminal, the damage is done.

Poisonous Neighbours

In the neighbourhood, toxic neighbours often apply similar behavior, limiting a victims enjoyment of their property.  They act by humiliating and dominating their victim.  Some such actions may come out of the desire for revenge where the assailant picks on various aspects of the victims life such as his or her hobby or property developments, by directly interfering in them.  They bragg about it in public or behind the victims back, trashing their work or new new creations or rubbish the victims efforts poisoning their lives.

Unfortunately while the law exists to  deal with this – it is expensive and difficult to apply making the neighbourhood a playground for toxic people.