VODAFONE has assured Church Crookham residents it will do all it can to find a new site for its controversial mobile phone mast.

It has agreed to work closely with them to find a new spot for the mast, which is at Potters Industrial Estate.

The pledge came two weeks after a planning inspector dismissed Vodafone's appeal to move the mast.

Vodafone appealed after Hart Council refused it permission to move the mast — which previously caused the suspension of two planning officers — just 7.2 metres.

The inspector's report also said the mast should never have been put there in the first place.

The company admitted at the appeal hearing that it wanted to move the mast to gain "official" planning permission for it after a council blunder previously meant it gained approval by default.

Vodafone even contacted Hart before the appeal in a bid to move the mast to the Peter Driver Sports site in Bourley Road.

But the council refused on the grounds that people use the sports site and there is one property nearby.

However, the inspector's decision means the residents may get the mast removed as Vodafone wants to end the adverse publicity it has received since gaining consent by default.

Now their hopes have been strengthened by Vodafone's latest move.

In a letter to the residents' spokesman Fergus O'Connor, of Coxmoor Close, Church Crookham, John May, technology operations director for Vodafone, agreed to work with the residents to move the mast.

He said: "I can confirm that Vodafone is continuing to take steps to secure a new base station site to provide Third Generation (3G) capability within the local community.

"If this search is successful and we manage to secure a suitable site, it may be possible to relocate our existing 2G equipment from Coxmoor Close to the new site.

"The search for a suitable site is continuing at present."

Mr May also said Vodafone would ask Hart, as land owner and the local authority, if it would reconsider the use of the Peter Driver Sports site.

An alternative option would be to place the mast on MoD land.

Mr May added: "I can assure you that Vodafone will continue to work closely with the local community in an attempt to secure a mutually acceptable site in accordance with the industry-wide commitments and best practice."

Vodafone will remove the redundant concrete base and equipment cabinets of its original 1996 mast from Potters Industrial Estate as soon as possible.

Mr O'Connor said: "We remain very positive that we will get a solution because Vodafone want to move it.

"The mast has defective planning permission and that makes Vodafone very uncomfortable. It should also make Hart officials uncomfortable.

"Now we all need to work together. It is an achievement to get Vodafone on our side. Now we need Hart officers on our side."