MOBILE phone giant Vodaphone has strongly defended its controversial plans for a 23-metre telecommunications mast in a village near York.

It said today it had examined 16 alternative locations for the mast before selecting the proposed site at Hall Farm in Church Lane, Huntington.

It insisted the mast would be neither visually intrusive nor a hazard to the health of local residents.

The Press reported on Friday that angry villagers had blasted Vodaphone’s planning application to City of York Council to put up the lattice-type telecommunications mast, along with three antennas and two transmission dishes.

Local residents claimed the mast would be an eyesore and a blot on the landscape which would spoil one of the most attractive views in York and dominate the surrounding countryside.

Some also raised concerns about the health impact of microwave radiation emitted from the mast in an area where hundreds of people were living, with Joseph Rowntree School only about 300 metres away.

But a spokesman for Vodaphone said today that all its “base stations” were designed, built and operated in accordance with stringent international guidelines laid down by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.

“The adoption of these guidelines has the formal backing of independent bodies such as the World Health Organisation,” he said.

“Typical public exposures from our base stations will be many hundreds, if not thousands, of times below these guidelines. In March 2007, an Irish Independent Expert group concluded that exposures from radio base stations are so low as to make it immaterial where masts are located with respect to schools, playgrounds, health centres or other places where children gather.”

He said the proposed base station at Church Lane was required to improve the 3G coverage to Vodaphone’s customers in the area.

“This will provide our customers with access to mobile broadband with speeds similar to those offered by fixed line broadband suppliers,” he said.

“This location was chosen after consideration of 16 alternatives, as it provides a backdrop of an agricultural setting against which the proposed base station will not be visually intrusive.”

He added that as part of a pre-application consultation, the company had written to the local planning authority and ward councillors, and received feedback from a ward councillor and responded to this before the application was submitted.