OBJECTORS to a controversial mobile phone mast planned just metres from a primary school were celebrating last night after councillors refused the application over health fears.

Communications company Orange had applied for planning permission from Darlington Borough Council to build the 11-metre mast on Coniscliffe Road, near to St Augustine's Primary School.

At a planning committee meeting yesterday, the majority of councillors voted against the scheme, saying they were concerned about the health of children at the school.

The chairman of the planning committee, Frank Robson, said: "This goes against our planning guidance."

Councillor Sheila Brown had earlier told the meeting: "We are really in an unknown field. We don't really know the effects, especially on children, of these masts.

"I think we have got to be very, very careful in particular near to this school and I think we should try to find another site."

The site of the planned mast was also close to a playgroup, the Grange Hotel and a number of houses.

Governors at St Augustines had objected to the scheme and North-East Euro-MP Stephen Hughes added his opposition.

Mr Hughes said last night: "I'm very surprised and pleased at the decision. Little is known about the cumulative effects of these masts and that is a concern for the children at St Augustine's."

Mr Hughes, who has worked for several years on health and safety issues involving mobile phone masts, tabled a written question to the European Commission on the health risks associated with masts in July, and is awaiting a written reply.

Lisa Oldham, of mobile phone objection group Mast Sanity, said: "This is quite an unusual decision but I'm glad the councillors had the courage to oppose the planning officers on this.

"Orange will now have three months to appeal, and I think they probably will."

A spokeswoman for Orange would not confirm or deny if the company was appealing, but said: "We are disappointed by the council's decision and we will review our options.

"Appealing is one of the options but it is too early to say what we will do now. We haven't yet received formal notification from the council of their decision."