Updated:HUNDREDS of campaigners marched along country lanes near York to protest against a planned mast which they fear will pave the way to a wind farm near their homes.

Green energy firm Banks Renewables wants to install a 70-metre monitoring structure in a field at Copmanthorpe, as it considers building five huge turbines at the site.

The mast application will today go before City of York Council’s west and city centre area planning sub-committee, and officers have recommended it for approval.

But Copmanthorpe residents yesterday greeted members of the committee with a “peaceful protest” as they arrived at Colton Lane to visit the site where the mast is planned. The campaigners aim to repeat the protest outside the Guildhall ahead of today’s meeting.

Banks originally planned to submit a full planning application for the Hagg Wood project, with turbines twice the height of York Minster, this year, but now expects to wait until the end of 2012, partly because of the need to assess the potential impact of any scheme on bats and other wildlife.

Tim Duffy, the action group’s chairman, said: “The protest at the site visit shows the strength of feeling in the village and the high level of emotion about these plans.

“We accept other people’s views, but we believe this is the wrong place for a wind farm as it is in the green belt and on the approach to the city.

“We also believe the application for a monitoring mast is just the precursor to an application for turbines, because it serves no purpose other than to provide data for a wind farm.”

Graham Auton, the group’s vice-chairman, said: “We might just be talking about a mast at the moment, but there is no point in having a mast if there is no plan for a wind farm.

“It would not be sustainable, it would be too close to people’s homes and it would have an enormous impact on the local community.”

Banks has said any wind farm scheme would provide enough power for 8,300 homes and create about 30 construction jobs, as well as allowing money to be invested in community schemes.

Planning officers have said the mast would not have “an adverse visual impact” on the area.