CAMPAIGNERS protesting against a mobile phone mast in their village braved the cold and rain to take their demonstration out into the open.

A group of 100 villagers from Sheriff Hutton took tents and banners to a grass verge next to an offending phone mast in their village, which has been put up by phone giant Orange.

Although the 15ft mast has now been there for well over a year, it has not yet been switched on.

Villagers have mounted a fierce protest campaign calling for its removal. They have even pledged enough cash between them - some £60,000 - to have it removed.

But they say they have been frustrated by a lack of contact with Orange - and planned last night's demonstration to show the company that local feeling against the mast was still strong.

Linda Murphy, a mum-of-two who lives near the mast, said: "We're not going to let Orange get away with putting this mast here.

"We never wanted it. We want to show Orange that this strength of feeling hasn't gone away. It was put up nearly two years ago, it hasn't been switched on, and this is really to show the strength of support we have.

"A bit of rain doesn't hurt - but if this mast gets switched on, who knows what it will do?

"We want it away from here, it's near the school, it's near people with young families. But Orange won't speak to us. For a company which is supposed to be about communication, they're pretty poor at it."

The saga of the village's phone mast has been rumbling on for many months. Officials from Ryedale District Council failed to lodge a protest within the allotted timescale - which meant Orange had the right to put it up anyway.

Villagers have objected to the mast on health grounds.

But Martin Grey, government and community relations manager for Orange, said an independent review had concluded there was no "convincing scientific evidence" that signals from mobile phone base stations caused adverse ill health effects.

He said the company still intended to connect power to the mast, in order to provide network coverage in the area.