DEFIANT protesters have forced developers to abandon work on a controversial phone mast for a second time.

Contractors from mobile phone company O2 arrived at a site in Asfordby Road, Melton, near the entrance to the Town Estate's sports ground, on Monday morning to erect the mast.

But they didn't get very far as protesters had parked a van and cars on the land to stop any work, vowing to guard the site on a 24-hour rota basis.

About 15 local residents with protest banners were at the site on Monday to lend their support.

Protester Paul Shaw (36), of Asfordby Road, slept in the van overnight on Sunday and Monday to keep guard.

He said: "We had a good idea they were coming on Monday.

We're working on a rota basis, staying on site for a couple of hours then swapping over. We have walkie talkies so if anyone turns up we can start ringing around.

"This is about the future health of our children. There's growing evidence that arguments about health effects are becoming more persuasive.

"In other countries like Sweden they are taking a more precautionary approach about siting masts near schools and residential areas.

"They have a stipulation that masts can't be within 500 metres of any residential properties. Our Government has just chosen not to follow that line."

Residents of Asfordby Road, Sysonby Grange Lane and Chetwynd Drive got together in August last year after Melton Council's development committee approved the mast.

And in October they staged a similar sit in which stopped work progressing.

02 agreed to look at alternative sites following the fierce protests but claims there are none that would work.

Mr Shaw, who has two children, Caitlin (3) and Louie (1), added: "They always opt for highways land because they get it rent free. It's the cheapest option."

02 spokesman Angela Johnson confirmed contractors had had to leave the site.

She said: "We're very disappointed because it's a considerable investment in Melton to ensure residents have a good phone service.

"We would hope the residents would be reasonable and move their vehicles away to allow us to build.

"We now have an option to take out a court order but no decision has been made yet."

She added: "We've spoken to representatives from the local community and tried to find an alternative sites but unfortunately there's nothing that will work for us in the area other than that site.

"We're happy to meet residents and talk through their concerns but we can't move that site. If residents would like a meeting I would be happy to pay for the hire of a room."

But concerned mum Elanor Shaw said: "We're very sceptical about them calling meetings. We know it's a public relations exercise to make them look like the good guys.

"We're on high alert and quite aware they're likely to try again but we've got a rota system in place so someone is there all the time."

13 February 2007

All rights reserved © 2007 Johnston Press Digital Publishing.


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