Norfolk

Inquiry into Norfolk church WiSpire scheme

Plans to use church towers in Norfolk to transmit wireless broadband signals to provide better internet access for rural areas have stalled.

Anti wi-fi charity ElectroSensitivity UK (ES-UK) has complained to the Diocese of Norwich about the pilot in Postwick because of health fears.

The diocesan chancellor Judge Paul Downes will lead an inquiry into the project, called WiSpire, in September.

The Health Protection Agency has said wi-fi signals are safe to use.

The scheme is a venture by the diocese and internet service provider Freeclix.

Wireless receivers would be installed on church spires, acting as high spots, to give nearby businesses and homes access to high-speed broadband.

Wi-fi hot spots would also be created in churches.

More churches

All Saints Church in Postwick was to go first in the scheme, with about a dozen churches across the Broads area, south-west Norfolk and the north Norfolk coast expected to follow.

ES-UK said in a statement: "We are not against the technology but increasingly research shows electro-magnetic fields can cause symptoms such as headaches, dry skin, chest pains and sleep problems.

"We just want people to look at all the facts and be very careful."

The Bishop of Norwich's chaplain The Reverend Simon Ward said the diocese was involved with the scheme because of its network of churches across the county, branching out into remote areas.

He said: "For the first proposed WiSpire at Postwick there will be a public meeting and a full hearing so we can make certain that from the beginning of this scheme we can make the very best choices that we can and we listen very carefully to what people are saying."

The independent Health Protection Agency, which advises national and local government, carries out research on the health effects of radio waves.

Earlier this year it stated: "Exposures from wi-fi equipment are much less than from mobile phones, and are well within international guidelines, so there is no reason why schools and others should not continue to use the technology."

If the WiSpire scheme is approved, it could be rolled out across East Anglia.

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