Preserving the Heritage of Licensed Amateur Radio – The Need for Change and Emerging Support Services

About the Article


The licensed radio amateur whose mast and antenna appear in this photograph is obviously enjoying something not available to others in almost identical properties and localities in the same county, despite “inclusive” government policy. 

This short article is written by the campaign manager of the Armando Martins Campaign.  During the campaign the author had to come from a position of little or no knowledge, to one of being able to challenge policies that were affecting Martins – and closing him down.  Its not just him.  Some of the things found to be affecting Martins actually affect all radio amateurs and citizens of the UK. 

Because each of the organisations Radio Amateurs have to deal with, has its own views about what Amateur Radio is, this isn’t just a local issue. 

Planning in UK drives the performance of amateur radio equipment for example, but planning law is vague. 

How do licensed radio amateurs expect planning officers or council workers ever to understand that properly constructed antennas have no harmful effect whatsoever and compared to mobile phone masts their footprint is quite small – made for the back garden? Or also, that they actually support a healthy lifestyle, which is an aim both of planning policy and the NHS?  Fortunately most neighbours get the point – but some don’t.  

Fairness in Planning 

Planners have views, council officials have views, industry has views, neighbours have views.  National society’s have views.  If all of these views were aligned with those of the end user and the organisation’s supporting them them the whole thing would be a lot less Fuzzy.  That’s why we are calling for Fairness in Planning.

Heritage

The point is, planners talk about heritage but have no idea that Amateur Radio is actually a part of that heritage.   This is a risk, because right now, were the telecommunications and lighting industry to realise they were trashing an international and national heritage, it might be a whole lot easier to tackle the issues arising, such as that of Noise Pollution on Medium wave and HF Radio.  Nobody seems to see this for the threat it is to our heritage.  This is a more of a risk to this heritage than people know because of the potential loss of our use of the ionosphere to human audio traffic and being forced into machine modes.  To protect this needs simple communications between all parties.  Adopting the same view would be simpler in theory to get simple answers to questions like “Why does my £1300 transceiver perform so badly?”  Or what’s that buzzing noise drowning out Capital Gold on 1548AM?” these are global questions which require global action to abate.  Individuals raising complaints often are fobbed off or face massive bureaucracy, ending up losing locally the facility pioneered by our ancestors which is why an organised approach is so important.  (“Amateur radio?  its not all its cracked up to be”.)

As Licensed Radio Amateurs who believe in the traditions of self training and supporting learning, the board of the Armando Martins Campaign has seen too many people put off amateur radio and hiding their activities from destructive people and people who frankly should know better.  This is a waste of everyone’s time:  The City Fathers, the RSGB instructors and those amateurs who encourage people into the hobby and work to retain them.  

The article that follows is therefore aimed to align thinking while opening up a support group for people whose hobby may become blighted as a result of rumours, myths and misinformation circulating among neighbours and public servants. 

Legacy

In International Amateur Radio there is a legacy, which has grown from over a hundred years of developing radio communications between global communities. 

The hobby is practised by a worldwide community of makers, scientists and technicians which began to develop in the late 19th century. 

Through two world wars, and lots of small wars in between, the worldwide community has developed a self-training ethos which has sustained and developed communications on the battlefield. 

It continues to support people in emergencies. 

It brings trainees into industry via a well-developed training medium. 

It brings the Space Programme into classrooms, and has been at the forefront of the satellite industry since its conception.

In the tradition of its community, today, Licensed Radio Amateurs continue to contribute to the development of Wireless Communications as they have done in many ways which include the development of a 21st Century training syllabus, the development of new modes of communication and digital hardware and software. 

As a hobby it contributes to health and well being by providing stimulation for youth and elderly people, bringing communities and like-minded people together through activities.  This is a legacy worth preserving, only one of many communities that open to us, and something to be proud of and celebrate.

Change

Amateur Radio in an Emergency

As the world changes, Amateur Radio changes.  What’s trending in the world affects it, both in positive and negative ways, these present both opportunities and threats.  Trends like social media, the internet, industrial pollution of the radio spectrum by eager but careless telecommunications operators and the industrial use of technology such as solar energy and lighting products.  It is affected both by austerity and prosperity but it isn’t just for rich people.  Its part of our personal development – a way of lifting people out of low skilled jobs by self training.   

The impact of change and how it is managed

Some countries have robust policy within their national society that enable them to counter the negative impact of change before they cause real issues (or harm) for people.  As more information becomes available, it becomes easier to change long term problems. The most worrying trends are the deafening noise pollution smothering the communications medium and drowning out signals on the HF bands.  Lack of visible activity on the amateur radio frequencies.  Commercial gazumping of frequencies,  Licensed radio amateurs being closed down or driven underground by anti-social behaviour, nightmare neighbours and flawed planning policy.  As trends emerge there are gaps in the support available.

Filling the Gap in Support

Recently the Armando Martins Campaign sprang up raising 43000 signatures to deal with the impact of anti-social behaviour.  The House of Commons Petition to Exempt Amateur Radio Aerials from Planning Permission wants to see the whole planning issue simplified.  Both noted that UK planning authorities et al, can completely fail radio amateurs.  Now a combined approach is being taken. 

Service Development

The RSGB provides services for its members, sadly it has not yet provided any for those hit by anti-social behaviour and/or who can’t get permission to erect an antenna because of it.  RSGB services are good, but they stick to what they know best. 

To fill the gap a new service is therefore being developed independently, as any support group would for people affected by what is essentially anti-social behaviour – a criminal issue.  Initially the group will be known as the Planning Policy and Neighbour Relations Support Group (Amateur Radio UK) and will work alongside existing services to tackle cases where misuse and abuse are at issue. 

It will also help people whose lives are blighted by similar issues outside of amateur radio as we see a common problem affecting almost anyone who owns or rents a home and just wants to get on with their lives.  The service is currently providing support for four cases where Amateur Radio is being driven underground by the attitude of nightmare neighbours and council workers.  It has a live Facebook page for the purpose of communications.

Stuart Dixon

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