MOBILE mast campaigners have turned their attention to Fleet after a successful protest in Exmouth.

Protesters successfully campaigned to remove a mast hidden in a Shell petrol station sign.

This followed warnings from the Mast Sanity organisation about the possible effects on neighbours.

The Shell petrol station in Fleet Road, Fleet, still houses a T-Mobile phone mast within its garage forecourt sign.

It was installed without going through the local planning process and without local residents being aware that it had been installed.

Lisa Oldham, director of the Mast Sanity organisation, called on residents to boycott the station.

"Shell is a big organisation and has the power to get rid of the phone masts," she said. "People need to protest by boycotting the station to make people aware of what damage these masts can do — just like they did in Exmouth."

The effects of the phone masts have been linked to a variety of brain illnesses, including hormone malatonin, which affects the hormones that send people to sleep at night.

Early signs of the hormone level decreasing are headaches and nosebleeds.

The government issued statements playing down the danger, but Mrs Oldham is not swayed.

"The government and the industry say it's all negative, but they said that about BSE and Gulf War syndrome and they were wrong about that," she said. "It's déjà vu, and I don't believe them."

The protesters in Exmouth achieved their goal simply by handing out leaflets and boycotting the petrol station. Shell caved in due to lack of trade and removed the mast.

Meanwhile, residents fighting to stop a mobile phone mast being placed near their homes have been given more time to object.

Orange wants to put up a 29ft mast in Lea Wood Road, Fleet, and is asking residents for their views.

A deadline for comments was set for December 19, but the mobile phone giant has now extended it until today (Friday). Objector Peter Withey won the extension after pointing out problems with the Christmas post.

Orange says it needs the mast because of a gap in coverage of the area.

The company claims the nine-metre lamppost style column mast would be away from the road junction, well screened by trees, in line with an existing lamppost and would blend in with the street.

But Mr Withey, whose home is right outside the proposed site, warned it would be unsightly.

He said Hampshire County Council is strongly against allowing mobile base stations on its land or buildings following concerns over the possible long-term effects of electromagnetic field emissions (EMF).

Approval for base stations on county council property is now only considered in exceptional circumstances on sites away from populated areas, where the mast can be masked and where an overall community benefit can be demonstrated, health concerns allayed and environ-mental improvements achieved.

Mr Withey already has the backing of Fleet's MP James Arbuthnot who said the reasons for objection are strong enough for him to take them up with the government minister responsible.

One of Mr Withey's MEPs, Baroness Nicholson of Winte-rbourne, said she was "very sorry to learn of this most unwelcome proposal".

She also said she would write to Orange about the scheme.

Mr Withey said: "We have the overwhelming support of the democratically elected representatives.

"If their combined weight is not enough to make Orange see sense and consider better, safer ways, even if not quite so economically advantageous, then it is a sad day for democracy.

"My grandchildren spend considerable time in our house as my wife does not work and so is always available for babysitting.

"It would be terrible to think that we would have to ban them from the house."