RESIDENTS angered by a mobile phone company's refusal to take down a controversial mast staged a protest outside the firm's York store on Saturday.

Ever since the Orange mast was put up in Sheriff Hutton in October 2005, villagers have been campaigning to have it taken down.

Now the company has ended negotiations with the village's mast protest group, and has said the mast will be turned on in the near future.

The angry residents vowed to take their protest to the front door of the Orange Shop, in Coney Street, York.

Linda Murphy, from the mast protest group, said the group had proof that Orange had offered to take down the 15-metre structure if Ryedale District Council paid the £60,000 costs.

Mrs Murphy, who lives only 85 metres from the mast and has two young children, said: "Since Christmas, we've been negotiating with Orange to see if the village as a whole is willing to raise the money to pay for the mast to be taken down.

"But we had a letter from them last week saying they have no intention of negotiating further, and said they will now turn the mast on. They said any damage to it would be considered criminal damage."

She said the council said it could not justify spending so much on one community.

"The mast was put up because Ryedale District Council was too slow stopping it," Mrs Murphy said. "We've been left to pick up the pieces as a community."

She said residents were concerned about the potential long-term health effects of having the mast so close to people.

An Orange spokesman said: "While Orange has secured all necessary consents, direct action by a limited number of residents has to date prevented the completion of works to allow the site to operate.

"In seeking to respond to local concern, Orange met directly with representatives of the district council, where the authority discussed a variety of issues - including funding a search of alternative solutions.

"Having conducted a review of siting options without recourse to public funds, Orange maintains that the base station is located suitably when set against national planning guidance.

"As such, it is Orange's intention to take forward plans to connect power to the long established site and provide network coverage to the local area.

"Orange remains committed to liaising with local stakeholders where appropriate."