FURIOUS campaigners in Marshalswick, who will be forced to live with a phone mast on their doorstep, have slammed St Albans District Council for failing to protect them.

Mobile phone operator Orange first submitted a planning application seven years ago to site a mast on the corner of Gurney Court Road and Sandpit Lane, which has since lapsed because the council has not been able to come to an agreement over the suitability of the location.

A second bid in 2008 was refused by district councillors and dismissed at an appeal.

Homeowners waged a campaign backed by their local councillors and MP to get their voices heard.

They made it clear the detrimental impact a phone mast would have on their lives and on the character of the area should override any need for coverage.

However the district council said it hands were tied by planning guidance which states although visual impact should be kept to a minimum it should be considered if the harm would outweigh the need.

The planning inspectorate decided on following the guidance explaining “there is a need for improved coverage in the area” and allowed the appeal causing fury amongst protesters who have now hit out at the district council for failing to come to an agreement with Orange over a suitable alternative location.

Richard Morgan, who led the campaign, said: “We have to blame the council here because government guidance requires councils to engage with mobile phone operators to direct locations of phone masts to the most suitable locations.

“It is quite evident that this is an unsuitable location – the inspector's decision makes it clear that he believes the phone mast will be detrimental to the appearance of the green triangle, but that no suitable alternative locations had been put forward.”

Councillor Roma Mills, Labour leader at the district council and parliamentary candidate for the party, also attacked the council for failing to protect Gurney Court Road residents from the threat of a new phone mast on their doorsteps. She believes the planning inspectorate's decision to give Orange the go-ahead is the result of years of inaction by district and council council leaders.

She said: “Liberal Democrat district councillors rejected the possibility of it being put up on a site between the football ground and rail line in Clarence Park, even though this would have generated valuable income for the park.

“They then failed to follow up a decision to introduce a policy similar to that in Milton Keynes, where phone masts are not permitted on council land within 50 metres of residential properties, nurseries or schools.”

Councillor Chris Brazier, planning portfolio holder at the district council, said he has done everything he could to support the residents in their plea to stop the mast from being erected in Marshalswick.

He said: “We are doing what we can to push our policy of not allowing phone masts to be built on district council land within close proximity to residential homes. However this is county council land.

“We have supported residents because we think this will look ugly and we have had several meetings with Orange over alternative sites, but Gurney Court Road is the site they came back with as providing the best coverage.”