PHONE MAST PROTESTERS DEFY 02

A STAND-OFF ended in victory for protesters on Monday as developers were forced to abandon work on a controversial phone mast.

Contractors from mobile company O2 arrived at Asfordby Road, Melton, to erect the structure but gave up after a dozen local residents staged an impromptu sit in.

The action group are now guarding the site in shifts to prevent any work while negotiations with the firm continue.

Mum Elanor Shaw was first to confront contractors at about 8.30am on Monday after she was alerted by a neighbour.

She said: "We think it's a small victory but at least they did move on. We're now going to keep a vehicle and a person on the site to make sure they don't come back in the meantime.

"A neighbour rang me in the morning to say two diggers were on the site so I thought I had better get up there. I asked the workmen if they were there for the mast and when they said yes I said 'well I'm staying here then'."

Mrs Shaw stayed on the site with her children Caitlin (2) and Louie (1) until her husband Paul arrived back from work and parked his van on the spot so no work could start.

The couple were then joined by other neighbours who also refused to move until the workmen were called off by O2 at about 12.30pm. Police attended the peaceful protest but did not intervene.

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

The action group say they were not given enough time to object and fear future research will reveal masts are dangerous to health.

They are considering applying for a judicial review of the decision after Melton Council admitted minor mistakes were made in the application process.

O2 representatives will now meet with Melton Council on Monday to try to resolve the dispute.

O2 Spokesman Angela Johnson said: "Naturally we're very disappointed because this mobile phone mast is urgently needed for coverage and capacity in the area.

"We are legally able to build it but we will talk to local planners and the local council to see if there is anything that can be done. We're not making any commitment because we have planning consent for this site but we are prepared to have initial negotiations."

Don Tempest, ward councillor for the area, said: "They have withdrawn their troops from the site and on Monday I would hope that we will be looking at re-siting it which is a move in the right direction."

Residents are now pressing to be able to have a say at Monday's crunch meeting. Resident Trevor Moncrief said: "We want to be at that meeting and I think there ought to be a public out cry if we're not there. At the end of the day it's a handful of well-meaning people against a giant company."

17 October 2006

All rights reserved © 2006 Johnston Press Digital Publishing.

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