Turning negative situations around. An occasional online account of every day struggles for people in toxic situations, Toxic Lives focuses on those things that affect mental and physical well-being – pulling together the information needed to tackle poisonous situations in the most likely places and campaigning for change, so that people can get on with their lives, free from interference or stress.
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.
August 2019 – Meeting with Rosie Duffield MP. (Canterbury)
Armando Martins and me were granted time with Rosie Duffield MP in August to talk about the way that East Kent Housing and Canterbury City Council had cracked down in a draconian way on Armando’s lifestyle. This followed his horrendous experience at the hands of an abusive mob while living in social housing.
Martins was well received by the MP and encouraged by the level of support, understanding and empathy shown. Being treated as a voter boosted his confidence in being able to eventually obtain closure with East Kent Housing – something he is determined to achieve. He was sad to report this had so far been avoided by the senior management. Rosie Duffield MP was genuinely interested in our account of the abuse and the coercion exhibited by both his assailants and council services when he was living at Thornhurst in Herne Bay. We said we have certainly met many closed minds on the topic as Martins went about rebuilding his life.
We made the MP aware of the lack of will shown by the national complaint system to do anything about his situation and a complete record of his experience was left on file at the constituency office. (We know since the meeting that she has reviewed his situation with Deborah Upton, the CEO of East Kent Housing. (As at today we are still waiting for Ms Upton to respond in the way the MP suggested).
From this meeting it was also realised that Martins is not alone in his East Kent Housing Experience. He was just confirming his observations of being lied to, cheated and betrayed, and having his goals repeatedly blocked, adding them to over five hundred other complaints on record at the constituency office. These mostly showed a lack of compassion to members of the public meted out by hard pressed, under qualified, and under supervised workers.
We were made aware of some change of personalities in the planning committee. More recently we discovered that a new chairman has recently been appointed to EKH. We wish Jamie Weir good luck in his new appointment. We have also seen an improvement plan for EKH. We hope the above change will be able to detoxify the organisation and help Martins to move on.
Fate of Legal Challenge
We reported that after trying to settle matters through mediation, more than once, Martins was repeatedly refused this by East Kent Housing. Then in August his planned legal challenge as a litigant in person was finally torpedoed by the defendants myriad of solicitors who simply asked the judge to strike out his case.
This came after a year of trying to express what had happened to him in legal terms without any legal experience, being continuously undermined by the defendants solicitors. EKH had simply trumped Martins by making it difficult for him, using their massively available legal budget to avoid exposure.
While EKH can avoid accountability to the public by evading responsibility and cover it up like this, we think they are accountable to parliament. However we discussed new evidence (see below) and how completing the Local Government Ombudsman’s complaints process proved fruitless just as we expected.
Just as his legal case was collapsing Martins found new documentary evidence showing that in 2011 he, East Kent Housing and his MP – Julian Brazier MP worked to confirm his right to use his 30 foot radio mast in a Canterbury City Council property from 2010 to 2012.
These letters show his MP was the driver of that – a power no less than the House of Commons therefore.
Martins has already shown written evidence showing he had asked EKH and the LPA to respect this and this had been dismissed.
Recap of what happened when he was asked to move house
At the point when the nightmare neighbours at Thornhurst went on the attack, EKH staff refused to back him, and betrayed him. Both acted in a way that would destroy his lifestyle. In their bid to stop him from practicing a hobby, he was forced to apply for planning permission twice, when it would have been his legitimate choice not to. There was little or no chance his applications would be approved after the attacks, because his assailants went to extraordinary lengths to bias people against him – says Martins. He was forced to move again.
In his struggle we witnessed him being coerced through malleable planning processes in the direction of refusal and dismissal of his second planning application. He went through this process twice. While he was engaged in this EKH and the Local Planning Authority both exhibited a perfect example of corporate memory loss – denying all knowledge of his previous situation. The second application was a mirror image of the first application.
Sum Total of Bureaucracy
Two planning applications, two planning appeals, a complaint to the ombudsman, two attempts at mediation and a (so far) dismissed court case. We think a new approach is needed as we also ponder the cost to the taxpayer.
Applying for planning permission and meeting the demands of a planning appeal are expensive stressful processes when all you want to do is put up an aerial in your garden to support your hobby.
It seems the power of toxic nightmare neighbours to influence council workers is much greater than that of the House of Commons.
In his current abode, Martins appreciates that he is subject to the dismissal of his most recent planning application. This does not rule out experimenting with antenna in his garden. Martins has said his piece and will be getting on with his life in accordance with all necessary guidelines.
In this time the following events were also relevant to his case:
In separate court cases, two people were jailed for 28 days for nightmare neighbour attacks. (By way of contrast, Martins abusive neighbours were supported by East Kent Housing workers who betrayed their promises to support him just to appease them).
Martins contributed to the House of Commons Enquiry into reality TV highlighting Channel Five’s reluctance to talk to him when he requested them to stop screening the episode which humiliated him (and his community of interest).
Martins’ experience led us to start an organisation called Radio Heritage UK and to offer support to others in the same situation.
We intervened when another person, John, had his planning application similarly refused. Later John’s planning appeal was upheld by the Planning Inspectorate. He lives in social housing within a mile of Martins and applied for a similar structure on a bungalow like Martins, and of a similar size. We noted the same discrepancies in the process and poor report writing applied to John as did to Martins.
More recently an example of good practice has come to light to compare Martins experience with. It concerns an elderly person living in a care home near Herne Bay being able to practice his hobby because the care staff helped him to erect an antenna to meet his housing needs while staying at the home. We applaud their compassion. Any decent service provider would do the same, knowing how such support affects his well being.
We took part in the public consultation about the National Planning Policy Framework and noted the changes being made in 2018. We also took part in the consultation on planning enforcement run by the LPA (Canterbury City Council).
Martins, who is incredibly dynamic for a 79 year old disabled man has been able to re-instate his social standing and keep up his hobby.
Shortly after his second move, During 2017 we worked to settle him in and establish his property needs with East Kent Housing obtaining landlords permission to erect various antenna. We used the criteria in planning guidance, and also that set by his community of interest. Especially we educated housing staff on how to approach the subject after they demonstrated unnecessary and unwanted belligerence, and excessive controlling behaviour to his experiments.
We continue to support Martins, and want to learn from his experience, feeding that back to his community of interest and the Planning System via his LPA – who we noted also needs support to understand our community.
What is Martins Strategy Now?
His current experiments with radio antennae are designed with a number of purposes in mind. Firstly for him and people like him to have fun and be supported. Also documenting the impact of his experience on his well being.
He will achieve this by documenting interactions with citizens and officials so that people engaged in his activities learn from his experience, hopefully creating an improvement. He aims:
To test the documents and assumptions that were used by the LPA and Planning Inspectorate in refusing him planning permission.
To gauge the actual social impact of the refused antenna on the housing community against the assumed impact.
To continue to understand, test, and feedback to housing and the LPA about Martins’ housing needs in the light of Local Plans, Planning Guidelines, Gaps in process, Enforcement Policy and Recent changes.
Particularly we wish to gain an understanding about the intended use of templates for planning applications described in the 2018 version of the National Planning Policy Framework and how this applies to Martins, and in the light of John’s experience (above) plus all of the other examples of people with similar installations throughout UK.
Martins will work on a more acceptable design if necessary.
Provide evidence of the impact of his hobby and support for it on his personal well being and feed back to national heritage and well being programmes.
8th October. I visited Martins who was in the process of clearing up after renewing the permitted development in his garden, comprising a ten meter mast erected with his landlords permission in July of 2017. (This was free standing and had been moved to a firmer base a couple of feet nearer the center line of the garden. He positioned a lightweight beam antenna at the top and noted that while a similar configuration was refused planning permission, when we read current guidelines there is nothing to suggest this now requires formal planning permission. He has a scaffolding tower to work from and shows determination despite his disability.
Community cohesion. During this visit Martins demonstrated excellent community cohesion by addressing a West African friend in person in impeccable French. Also a cheerful exchange with a local friend who he shares time and interests with, in the local community. There is no doubt he is developing a good deal of respect in the local community he joined in March 2017. Martin’s was supported by a young man who lives nearby to get the antenna in place – the son of a friend who lives local.
Incidents. Negative experiences. It was depressing to see that within ten minutes of completing the construction and standing back to take in the actual visual impact – a council worker turned up to take photographs – “to be reported back to the council for their action” he says. Martins was visibly depressed by this. I certainly found the speed at which this happened a touch intimidating and wondered if Armando was on a “watch list”. A friend said he wondered if he was under CCTV Surveillance. We are just waiting to see what happens next, if anything.
9th October. Call from Martins – tests show antenna not working. Arranged fault finding trip – scaffolding back up. No adverse impact noted.
12th October. With
Martins. Tested Antenna – identified
problems and resolved them. Both very
satisfied. Me with fault finding skills
and Martins with the result. Later
received phone call. Antenna tested in
contact with Portugal (Martins home country) – Good signals. A very satisfying result for him and me.
Following on from our work on neighborhood relations we are happy to reproduce this story reported by the BBC today. It says that research into personality disorders tells us that as many as 1 in 20 people may have a personality disorder, gained as a result of family stress during pregnancy or in our early years.
Its supports our view that approaching neighbours with problems and issues is a risk to be avoided, because their response may be unpredictable.
It is easy to assume that all neighbours have a desire to get on with each other. Some policies concerning neighbours, planning and policing for example make that assumption, and some warn against approaching neighbours.
While there are many types of personality disorders, responsible for many types of common behaviour, some ( a “dark triad”) are characterised by dark personality traits.
Blaming the victim when a toxic relationship materialises, “for not getting on with their neighbours” is common practice but simply not appropriate, and yet this attitude is prevalent among police officers and council workers, for example.
Airing an issue, or indeed sharing information with a toxic neighbour can lead to crime, conflict and victimisation where support is minimal due to lack of understanding.
Background The victim in case three is an elderly man whose next door neighbour accused him thirty years ago, of interfering with her TV set. Relationships have never been good since this was resolved. He is well known in the community for his hobby, being a licensed radio amateur. His profile is quite high in the neighbourhood due to his garden antenna system. He gets on well with his other neighbours – most of whom support him.
Recently he has been the recipient of several types of unwanted behaviour as follows:
Type 1. False accusations of licence breaches delivered via secretive symbolic messages left on the doorstep of his home by an anonymous caller. The symbol used is that used by CB radio operators to accuse each other of causing problems by “improper” use of his radio, breaking the terms of his licence.
Editors Note: In common with other cases being compiled in support of Armando Martins, this feature implies the perpetrator has a need to torment the victim. It implies he is being observed breaking rules and the potential to involve the authorities. It is a veiled threat therefore. The same symbol has appeared several times in the last few years.
Type 2. More recently he received a malicious call about his hobby purporting to come from the authorities and telling him he would be in breach of the rules of his licence, if he didn’t act. This caused the victim to respond.
These incidents he thinks are pranks, however the frequency and numbers of incidents are building up and this is upsetting for him and his wife. Someone is “getting off” on causing them anxiety.
Type 3. The neighbour next door’s demeanour has never been good, but recently she has made a number of caustic remarks about him and his hobby containing threats to disrupt him by reporting him to the council. This attempt at coercive control was delivered over a number of incidents, one of which included complaints to his wife shouted through a communal wall, and accompanied by banging on the wall. This occurred while she was indoors enjoying TV and he was enjoying a session of radio operating in the shed.
When they eventually spoke, there was an allegation of TV Interference and the neighbour adopted a more threatening stance.
Despite his offers to resolve the situation, which mean accessing the neighbours TV to test it, she refuses and continues to threaten him saying she will have it stopped by the council. The victim takes the correct action and obtains a leaflet from the BBC and gives it to the neighbour. The neighbour insists she will do it her way.
NB. It is the BBC who have the technical resources to locate and prevent the interference. The council don’t have any (but do have enforcement officers).
She isn’t interested – she wants to invoke sanctions that close him down.
Anxiety levels are raised. Her attitude and demeanour imply if the victim doesn’t comply with her rules, he will face the “bureaucrats” at the council or some other judgement. As of today the victim awaits a call from the council and is in fear that they will act on her complaint rather than leave it to the proper authority. (A few weeks later there is a distinctly toxic atmosphere). While the victim said that he wasn’t losing any sleep it was clear now that he sees this as a threat to his livelihood. In his mind he is continually questioning the situation – racking his brains, looking for reasons why he is under attack, what the next steps may be and how to deal with it – fearing the worst.
In January 2019 the victim received a visit at night from two officers from Kent Police asking what was going on with his neighbour and for him to comment on her mental state. The purpose of the visit was vague although the victim links this with previous threats and false accusations.
NB. The behaviour of this neighbour bears a strong resemblance to that shown in Nightmare Neighbours Next Door Series 5 Episode 8. This has been screened multiple times on multiple channels of Freeview TV – ed.
Annual Report of the Armando Martins Campaign – Highlighting Achievements and the need for further work to make it more difficult for planning laws to be abused.
It is now just under two years since the petitioners of the Armando Martins Campaign asked Canterbury City Council to re-instate Armando Martins’ amateur radio antenna, – after it was ordered to be removed following an act of mobbing.
Acting on behalf of the mob, council workers had successfully curtailed Armando’s hobby causing him to move. After he moved, council workers continued to interfere with his lifestyle for several months and he was subsequently refused planning permission despite asking specifically to move to a place where he could use his property. The impact of this struggle, a journey lasting over several years, was to thoroughly depress, stress and demoralise him.
The immediate aim of this campaign in late 2016 was to expose the nature of his treatment and counter the behaviour he encountered by resolving the issues raised by all parties. We wanted the council to fully re-instate his statutory and human rights (to develop and use his property.) These rights had been arbitrarily put to one side in order to satisfy his assailants.
A second case we reviewed (case 2) was used to compare Armando’s experience with. This came to court in March 2018. It resulted in the assailant being found guilty of assault and given a conditional discharge. The victim in case 2 is currently enjoying a respite from the bullying he received over 25 years of living in the vicinity of a toxic neighbour and is able to get on with his life.
Achievement Both victims are now able to get on with their lives. Armando was removed to safer accommodation, and, while he has now regained his lifestyle and thanked the council, he cannot yet draw a line under the whole experience, due to the number of avoidable incidents involving council workers and the way his planning application has been handled, which infringed his rights and flaunted various policies.
Case 2 approaches a similar junction, the council workers he encountered have been very helpful, not so the police, as they refuse to acknowledge the offence of stalking was being committed, or do anything about the surveillance cameras overlooking the victim’s property.
Where it could, the campaign gave Armando help to resolve the incidents and acted as agents and advocate, helping him through three incidents; a complaint to the local government ombudsman, a planning application and its subsequent appeal. Our approach was to walk with him during this part of his journey and share his experience.
Currently Armando is pursuing legal action against the council staff who he thinks have helped, by breaching his rights. He means to recover costs and make sure others don’t get the same treatment.
In September 2018 there is a noticeable difference to Armando’s outlook. Over a cup of tea in the radio shack at his new home, we were listening to an Italian radio station making contacts with many other countries across the globe. By October 2018 he has himself made contacts in North and South America, the Indian Ocean and Europe using his latest antenna, and he is building up a steady number of contacts with pins on the world map – proving the aerial is doing its job. He is now in the process of improving his garden and living accommodation, and looking after his health while planning a future expedition.
Learning Opportunities – Armando
For 78 year old Armando, the last six months have been good for learning about radio, and this year’s focus has been on how to get good transmitting performance, with the minimum of local impact, while complying with the planning laws governing his experimentation with aerials in the back yard. (These are set out in the national planning policy framework (NPPF) (revised in July 2018) and related documentation, the most important being Planning Policy and Guidance No 8 – Telecommunications.)
Lessons Learned by the Campaign
The campaign was also learning. To get to this point, we studied and consulted planning experts at the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB). As an organisation the campaign put the views of its forty three thousand signatories to the UK Planning Authorities and the Radio Society as well as the council and housing departments involved.
These conversations are worth recording primarily because they answer the question why is nobody listening and why can’t I get a quick, simple and accurate answers to my questions about planning or support from the planning system when it goes wrong for me?
After consulting Armando’s MP he was directed (rightly) to complain to the ombudsman. This is still in progress after more than six months.
A further case came to light which highlighted the nature of the problem of consistency between different LPA’s when dealing with licensed radio amateurs. John Carpenter, A licensed radio amateur from Cornwall had written a short piece about how his LPA had forced him to apply for planning permission for an antenna which normally wouldn’t need it costing him £500 for plans and the process. (Source: Gary Myers – https://www.m0plt.me.uk/#planning).
Since the conversation with Gary circa 29th October the importance of these conversations has been realised:
Public Consultation Process ( Follow Link). This is the official means of making change in government. Complaining about problems to your MP puts the complainant in a minority and you will be directed elsewhere – usually the ombudsman. Democratic process allows for public consultation and public consultations are used to make changes to plans and laws. Organisations and individuals can influence change via this process.
Local Plans (Follow link). This is about shaping where you live. Since 2012 each local authority has been directed to make their own local plans in consultation with local people. These are the rules that the LPA is more likely to use to make planning decisions. Martins local plans are devoid of anything that would make obtaining planning permission easier for the radio enthusiast. Also they were written by the LPA and not the local people, he thinks radio amateurs weren’t consulted when they were compiled and therefore they don’t take into account this minority groups needs.
The RSGB acknowledged that Local Plans is a problem and said they would take part in consultations with the Department for Planning and Communities about the national planning policy framework.
Because of the above we were able to recommend that the parliamentary campaign to exempt amateur radio aerials from requiring planning permission take a different approach from November 2018. See Joint Statement Here
We concluded to make change in Amateur Radio needs the right people to do the right things at the right time using established principles and techniques.
The radio society guidelines on planning were re-published in September 2018. The campaign has two constructive criticisms for an otherwise welcome revision. It omits to appraise the significant changes made to planning policy and inform the reader of some important developments relative to them which changed in 2018. Also it ignores the Armando Martins Campaigns approaches to the RSGB over their attitude to neighbour bullying aka nightmare neighbours, abuse of licensed radio amateurs and the planning authorities. However it gives good planning advice.
Nightmare Neighbours and The RSGB The RSGB’s current policy regarding the neighbour nightmare is that it takes a bystander role. According to the late Dr Tim Field, et al, bystanders tend to sit on their hands and indulge in victim blaming during encounters with bullies.
Normal Neighbour Behaviour
The RSGB puts getting on with the neighbours at the centre of its policy as a means for members to achieve their planning goals. See here for a report entitled A Neighbourly Nation: Through the Keyhole prepared by the COOP and Neighbourhood Watch. This provides some basic statistics about neighbour behaviour, establishing what good neighbours are and that 52% of people surveyed said they had good relations with neighbours.
Borderline Abnormal Behaviour
The report went on to say a quarter of people say their neighbours are less than courteous. We established that getting on with the neighbours is normative behaviour.
To support its view the Armando Martins Campaign also discovered through the work of Svenn Torgersen, PhD; Einar Kringlen, MD; Victoria Cramer, PhDa prevalence of people at large in the community exhibiting a dark triad of behavioural traits or personality disorders such as sadistic personality disorder. By comparing the traits of people exhibiting toxic behaviour with normal behaviour we concluded that there are small numbers of people in the target population of our study who are exposed to being victimised by neighbours with these traits. We conclude it’s no co-incidence to find in the target community of licensed radio amateurs people reporting toxic neighbour\council worker issues via social media, Seven cases have come to light – all in the south east of England. #MeToo
Because of the variation in reactions from these different mindsets, we say, while the majority of people benefit from great relationships with their neighbours, getting on with the neighbours should never be a pre-requisite to entering into a planning development.
In case study two, the victim’s normal neighbours allowed him to put antenna wires in their gardens and encouraged the diversity his hobby brought to the area. They were happy to learn about it. A toxic neighbour silently objected, and cut the wires in several acts of covert (and then overt) sabotage.
As we established that getting on with the neighbours is normative behaviour, we noted that toxic people have an ability to pass off their abnormal behaviour as normal, producing plausible lies, particularly when compromised etc.
By denying, or playing down the existence of toxic behaviour in communities, we think it exposes others, enabling them to become victims of undesirable or inappropriate behaviours. Some examples of which are:
Opening the victim to coercive control.
Encouraging the victim to indulge in bribery.
Encouraging the victim to be false – by being nice to people they don’t really like.
Exposure to emotional blackmail.
Forcing avoidance behaviour, the victim hiding or limiting their activities.
Victim blaming; Members of the community blaming the victim (for whatever he or she did to encourage the assailant.) Also members of the victims hobby community blaming the victim for bringing the activity into disrepute or for their own difficulties\behaviour.
incitement (e.g. to retaliate).
The victim in case 2 said “the first sign of trouble is if you receive a veiled or overt threat when talking to your neighbours”. “Do we have to put up with that?” “Eyesore” etc. Unwelcome questions and remarks about your property are indicators that all is not well and will set hairs running. He records his assailant has many of the traits associated with sadistic personality disorder. Someone who spent time making up and trying to enforce a set of rules on his victim and raising the stakes when the victim doesn’t comply – reporting the most minor and sometimes made up “infringements” or “misdemeanours” to the police or the planning\housing authorities for his own pleasure. Victim 2 makes the point normal people are more forgiving and polite about mistakes and errors and don’t tell lies. All of his “errors” and “mistakes” were shouted at him – or were lies, made up and shouted at him in front of the other neighbours. His neighbours all feared the assailant – as a tyrant. “All of this was ignored by the police until he assaulted me”.
Both victims have had anxiety levels raised, and experienced sleeplessness and symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress, flashbacks about incidents and obsessing about retaliatory measures etc.
Once exposed the assailant represents a perpetual threat, which might not come directly, but via the planning department. Toxic people like to create fear. This is enhanced by anonymity. The perception is that planning authorities gather intelligence on “illegal” developments and this is something the toxic mindset uses. How the planning authorities react is a variable which causes fear – that the victim’s goals will be blocked and restricted – giving the assailant pleasure and something to gloat about.
Talking openly about yourself or what you do for pleasure is an open invitation to a toxic mindset. Here is an example of sadistic\psychopathic behaviour enabled by the internet. It involves deliberately triggering an epileptic fit by sending flashing images via social media. The same mindset will think nothing of sending vexatious reports about you to the authorities.
The RSGB should explain its policy further.
Steven Way, a chartered building surveyor at Collier Stevens, was quoted in the Times on 8th April 2018 as saying, “Some people seem to think that rejecting their neighbour’s planning application is a way to get even if there is a history of distrust. Many disputes are rooted in jealousy.” He was talking about a high profile case which had been resolved by the courts.
When comparing the performance of Canterbury City Council in Armando’s case, with how Gravesham Borough Council dealt with Case 2, there are significant differences in the way housing and planning staff operate when nightmare neighbours attack. The former it is suggested, are more open to being used to abuse.
The Armando Martins Campaign concludes: There is enough evidence to prove there are toxic people at large in our communities. These are people with the type of mindset that would willingly exploit “the planning system” for their own (sadistic) pleasure. When they don’t have the power to get at their neighbours they can tap into a ready source. Willing council workers who flaunt government and local policy to coerce them into compliance.
Pot luck for the victim who depends on the skills of policy makers, council workers and police to detect and rectify sometimes criminal behaviour, only to find more of the same or limited services. One further learning experience involves discovering just how much effort is needed to deal with nightmare neighbours because of the protective envelope of bureaucracy and lack of support for victims. This in itself is a weapon in the right hands. Victim blaming also brings victim punishment from people who role themselves as by-standers. The reaction of authorities when asked for help, may well take the form of more bureaucracy – being forced into complaint systems, appeal systems and judicial services that are designed not to be productive but to coerce people into giving up.
During the petition phase of the campaign we listened to lots of opinion, and contacted responsible people in: Canterbury City Council and East Kent Housing, The Department for Community and Planning and the Planning Inspectorate, and also the Radio Society of Great Britain, these organisations also all played a hand in getting to this point. We were particularly inspired by the contribution of people on Facebook especially the un-official Radio Society of Great Britain and Amateur Radio UK groups for sharing their experience and views (and for not booting me out).
What does success looks like?
Not all opinions were appropriate or agreeable, and some conflicted with the campaigns view’s. They did however tell us what success would look like and how it would be achieved, by influencing these organisations in variable degrees. For example with the radio society who supported us with planning advice, and who have recently updated their guidance which was outdated and inaccurate. We think we even managed to re-focus their strategy by highlighting the benefits for elderly people of hobbies, by pointing them towards good practice such as the Men’s sheds movement. We notice the RSGB has broadened their strategy in that very direction. We also came across taboos, and people unwilling to stand up for Armando – blaming him for his situation. That’s not unusual, it is human. Nonetheless an inappropriate value in this day and age. Also we passed on the requirement for changes, to the national planning policy framework team and after evaluating it for the planning inspectorate, are reasonably sure there is to be change in the areas we highlighted.
They think it’s all over…
We could leave it here but Armando thinks if we do, sooner or later he or somebody else will face this treatment and therefore he is now taking action aimed to close the problem down for everyone. To support him he asks you to view his crowdfunding page here and join him in taking further preventative measures. The campaign remains open for business, because it is simply not OK to witness such behaviour and do nothing.
A draft constitution covering the forward plan to raise funds to support a legal challenge has been raised.
Draft Constitution The Armando Martins Campaign and subsequent crowdfunding is to cover legal costs that enable Armando Martins to be fairly represented in court. As others have been treated the same as Armando we want to prevent further occurrences of abuse and provide help and advice for others in similar situations – filling a gap in the RSGB’s services. We think the way to achieve this is to set a legal precedent and to be an organisation and continue campaigning. IT’s NOT OK. Until then we want to raise funds to keep “old timers” on the air until they choose to stop, especially when their circumstances change. This is to combat loneliness and breakdown in mental and physical health. We are open to all radio amateurs who find themselves in difficulty after their antenna systems and plans have been interfered with or their legitimacy misunderstood. In the interim we will develop a process for tackling unfair decisions by council officials based on Armando’s experience and make it available to others. When there is a fair and consistent process we will close the campaign. When the campaign winds up, surplus funds will go to a charity such as Men’s Sheds.
Governance\Roles Any money raised will be kept in a non-registered charity account. (Any money collected temporarily and currently goes into a business account). Nominated officials are: Mac McDonald, John Rivers, Stuart Dixon and Ian Hope.
As an organisation our interest is not only to get justice for Armando. The same treatment he got from his neighbours and the council can be applied to anyone, but is a particular feature in the life of some radio amateurs. What happens is the amateur suddenly finds himself the victim of a malicious complaint aimed specifically to ruin his or her enjoyment of their property. As Armando’s local councillor (inappropriately) put it during his planning application, “if you put up an amateur radio antenna in your garden – you can expect people to have a go at it.”
We say that attitude is victim blaming, a technique used to mask the true motivation for a complaint, which is usually attributable to the controlling behaviour of the assailant. The type of complaints amateurs encounter are easily refuted, however the malicious complainer can get lucky when councils respond out of ignorance, to the loudest shout. In Armando’s case his assailant managed to motivate several complainers in an act of bullying, known as mobbing, to voice a number of complaints, most of which were fabricated. The mobbing went unaddressed despite being listed by the council as anti-social behaviour – council staff joined in blocking his goals and blighting his life and satisfying the assailant(s) need for power.
Being able to enjoy the use of your property is a human right and making malicious complaints is a criminal activity called Harassment.
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 their property – the antennas they buy or develop, on the property they own or rent.
The Government Policy which rules the Planning Regime in the 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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?
Stuart Dixon MBCS, GCGI, MInstLM (G4IYK), R MacDonald (2E0ATZ), Armando Martins – (M0PAM),
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.
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.
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. Many Citizens in UK Encounter Toxic Neighbours when they set out to develop their property. According to Neighbourhood watch only 52% of neighbours share a desire to get on with their neighbours. Among the other 48% are a small number of people who get perverse pleasure from controlling their neighbours.
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 (the menal health charity) 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. In UK Whatworkswellbeing.org are studying wellbeing in the community and workplace and provide additional resources on the topic.
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 fault in TV or Radio receivers. 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.