A CONTROVERSIAL decision to allow mobile phone masts to be put up alongside the Basingstoke Canal has sparked a row.

Members clashed when the proposal was discussed at a meeting of the canal society's joint management committee.

Opponents said the masts were an eyesore and that the society should stick to its policy of not allowing them on its land.

But, by a narrow majority, the committee voted to drop its opposition to the masts.

In future each application will be considered on its merits.

Those who voted "yes" argued that the society would boost its income by up to £4000-a-year by leasing a site to the mobile phone companies.

Society chairman Peter Redway said last Friday: "Some members were very unhappy at the decision.

"But others felt we should be more open minded because masts have been put up on private land near the canal, with little impact."

He emphasised there was no chance of the society allowing very tall masts to become a blot on the landscape.

"We will only agree to them to being sited in places where they will not be intrusive," he said.

Mr Redway hoped the decision would help to improve mobile phone reception along the canal.

"Most of us working on the canal have mobile phones which we sometimes need to use in emergencies," he added.

"In my case I'm on Cellnet, and I often have to drive up to a mile to get even a faint signal."