CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating after finally winning their four-year battle to have a controversial mobile mast removed from their doorsteps.
A government planning inspector has allowed a new mast to be built on the former sewage works off Aldershot Road in Church Crookham — paving the way for the monster mast to be removed from nearby Potters Industrial Estate.
Inspector Paul Graham has overruled a decision by Hart Council and declared Orange can build a 25-metre mobile mast at the former Ministry of Defence works.
Orange appealed after Hart refused permission for the mast last June.
The matter was thrashed out before Mr Graham, who visited the site last month.
In his appeal decision Mr Graham states: "The site is well screened by tall trees, some in the region of 20 metres in height, and in my opinion the mast would be barely visible from either the footpath or the nearby houses."
Orange plans to share the new mast with 3 (formerly Hutchison 3G) and Vodafone.
Mr Graham said that Vodafone already has coverage in the area from the Potters Industrial Estate mast but it would become redundant now the sewage works mast has been granted permission.
"Vodafone has confirmed by letter that the Potters Estate mast would be removed within three months of the com-missioning of its equipment on the new mast," states Mr Graham.
He said Orange had considered seven other sites, but they could not provide satisfactory mobile coverage or would have to be bigger to make allowance for tree cover.
"I am satisfied therefore that (Orange) has taken reasonable steps to find a better alternative to the appeal site," states Mr Graham's decision notice.
He said that some nearby residents expressed fears about the effect the electromagnetic waves would have on their health, particularly that of young children, but stated this scheme accords with strict guidelines.
The news has delighted residents of Coxmoor Close and Northfield Road, who will now see the controversial Potters mast pulled down.
Leading campaigner Fergus O'Connor said all the hard work had been worthwhile.
He said he first got involved when he sent a letter to neighbours in June 1999 warning them about plans to increase the mast by five metres.
"Since then I have been in constant contact with the council about this," he said.
"There have been four planing applications and two appeals and I now hope this decision has drawn the whole thing to a conclusion."
Mr O'Connor, who used to live in Coxmoor Close but has now moved to Ash, added: "I always said I would see this to the death and now I think we have.
"We have had tremendous support from people in Coxmoor Close and Northfield Road, who have made all the right noises.
"Without their support I couldn't have achieved everything.
"There will now a lot of unhappy residents in Beaufort Road but there will not be too many people that will be able to see the mast.
"More people will be able to see it a mile away rather than close up because of the tree cover, whereas the mast overshadows the garden of one house in Coxmoor Close."