RESIDENTS living near the proposed site of a mobile telephone mast fear their health could be affected by radiation from the 11.5m transmitter.

More than a dozen people living less than 40 yards from the proposed site in Northfield, Barnard Castle, say the mast could damage their health, as well as being an eyesore.

They also say that they had no idea that the mast was going to be built, and argue that more effort should have been made to inform residents that permission had been granted for the Orange communications company to install the transmitter.

Last year, members of Teesdale District Council rejected an application by Orange to build the mast near a Jet petrol station on the A67.

They said the site was inappropriate and would be an eyesore, after planning officers recommended councillors reject the application.

But Orange appealed, and last month a planning inspector decided that the site was suitable and gave the company permission to build the mast. The company have yet to install the transmitter.

Yesterday, residents met with their ward councillor, Coun Newton Wood, and planning officer Ken Hughes, from Teesdale District Council, to voice their concerns.

Speaking at the meeting, disabled pensioner George Cartwright, who lives in Northfield, said people had only found out about Orange being given approval in the past few days.

He said: "We knew nothing of this and we are absolutely fuming, because we feel we should have been given a say. That aside, there are the health risks from these masts. It will microwave everyone who lives near it, and it will also be an ugly eyesore on our doorstep."

Mr Hughes said: "Teesdale District Council has done everything it can to stop the mast being built, but there is nothing more we could do.

"The planning inspector has given it the go-ahead and, to be honest, I can't see how Orange can be stopped."

A spokesman for Orange said: "There is no conclusive evidence that makes a link between exposure to radio waves transmitter masts and long- term public health risks.

"We take great care when looking at possible sites, and we feel that this is a reasonable place to put up a mast.