VILLAGERS fear that plans to erect a mobile phone mast near their homes could pose a fatal health risk to their children.

Mobile phone company One 2 One wants to put up the 41ft mast on land opposite an area where children play football, at West Cornforth, near Ferryhill.

Families are worried that the mast, which would be close to Linden Road and Stobb Cross Road, could give off deadly emissions, and cause diseases such as leukaemia.

Father-of-five Andrew Hubbard, 26, of Linden Road, said: "What we're worried about more than anything is the cancer risks that could be connected with these stations.

"We appreciate mobile phones are an integral part of people's lives, but why can't they site it somewhere outside the village away from the houses?

"We already have two masts in the village from different companies, so we're not totally against them. Why can't One 2 One share with the existing ones that are there?"

The plans also include antennae, a transmission dish and equipment cabin.

Mother-of-two Lisa Howell, 32, said: "We're concerned about property prices because no one will want to look out at them, and it could bring more vandalism as the telephone box nearby is always being damaged."

They are also angry because they say only one notice about the proposals was put up in the area, and that blew down during the recent storms.

Villagers have collected 300 signed statements of objection, and hope councillors will join them at a public meeting to discuss the plans at Cornforth House, in High Street, on Thursday, at 7.30pm.

A spokesman for Sedgefield Borough Council said because the mast was less than 15 metres tall it did not require formal planning consent, but the council had until the end of December to comment on its siting and design.

A One 2 One spokesman said: "Our view is that we would not put anything up which would harm anybody.

"One 2 One is satisfied these mobile base stations operate within national and international guidelines and do not present a health risk to any member of the public."