Locals have new ally in fight against mast near to houses

By Lucy Stephens

The gnome in place at the Sheriff Hutton mast

CAMPAIGNERS protesting against a mobile phone mast in their community have won support from an unusual source - a garden gnome.

The small figurine has appeared next to a 15-foot mast in Sheriff Hutton, near York, which has been the subject of a fierce protest campaign by local people.

The gnome appeared next to the mast this weekend bearing the legend: "Masts stunt growth. I used to be six foot tall."

Local campaigner John Botting said: "It's generated quite some response.

"I don't know who put it there. It arrived over the course of the weekend, it's taking pride of place and it looks very happy there."

Mr Botting said other residents concerned about the mast, including himself, were now thinking of buying other gnomes to keep the new village arrival happy - and to provide a public protest against the mast.
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The saga over Sheriff Hutton's mast has been rumbling on for well over a year, since it was put up by phone provider Orange.

Officials from Ryedale District Council had failed to make representations about the mast within the allotted timescale - which meant it was put up anyway.

So far, Orange has not switched it on.

Local villagers are angry about the mast, and have clubbed together to find the £60,000 that it would cost to take it down - through asking for loans and remortgaging their homes.

But campaigners say they have reached a stalemate in talks with Orange.

Mr Botting said: "It's just been so hard for us. They're very determined to turn it on and this is one way for us to see we don't want this - the village doesn't want it. Site it somewhere else - the village is prepared to pay."

Campaigners are protesting because they fear the health impact of having the mast close to their homes.

But Martin Grey, of Orange, said there was no scientific basis for relocating the mast because of its proximity to properties.

He said direct action by "a limited number of residents" had prevented the mast being used. Orange intended intended to take forward plans to connect power to it.

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