RESIDENTS are “overjoyed” after a plan to put a 49-ft high phone mast in their neighbourhood was scuppered.

The council’s planning committee last night had heard emotive warnings that such masts could cause everything from headaches to haemorrhages, and even damage trees, despite international acceptance that they are safe.

More than 220 residents had signed a petition opposing the mast on Whitehill Way, between Grange Park and Freshbrook, and one of those making representations was resident Andrew Fleet, 62, former headteacher at Nova Hreod school.

He told the meeting: “We do not want this technology to be a repeat of asbestos and lung disease, with the causal link taking some 30 years to be found.

“However necessary the promotion of good communications in the town, as residents we do not want to be the human guinea pigs.”

Both Vodaphone and O2 would have used the mast.

But the committee was also told it did not have the power to throw out the plans on health grounds, because the government had already deemed them safe.

Instead, the mast was unanimously rejected because of how close it was to homes, its height, and how it looked in the area.

Afterwards, as the dozen-plus residents poured out of the chamber, resident Nigel Morgan, 44, of Wentworth Park, said: “We’re so overjoyed, just for every resident.

“Our worry is there are different reports and different things you can read that say they are linked to cancer, haemorrhages, headaches, but they’re not 100 per cent proven.

“But they said that about asbestos.”

The matter had been referred to the committee by ward Coun Michael Bray (Con, Freshbrook and Grange Park).

He said he was unconvinced by the health scares, but had called the meeting for “democratic reasons”.

“At the moment my view is unless it’s proved 100 per cent this is a problem I can’t see any other answer than to keep putting them up.

“Okay, they refused this site, but no doubt O2 and Vodaphone will appeal it, and they’ll have to find another site,” he said.

“And if you’re looking for an urban site it’s going to be rather difficult.

“I brought it up for democratic reasons.

“When 200 people put up a petition, and 33 people write letters, they should be given the chance to express themselves at planning committee.”