16:30 - 12 February 2005

Two schools are fighting to get rid of mobile phone masts in their grounds over fears that they are not safe.

Fullhurst Community College and Eyres Monsell Primary both receive around £2,500 a year from Orange for having an antennae on their premises.

But headteachers at both schools are trying to find a way out of complicated long-term contracts - because of fears that the masts pose a health risk.

In all, four schools in Leicester are being paid for having masts. The other two are Beaumont Leys School and Lancaster Boys' School, neither of which have any plans to remove them.

Last month Government adviser Sir William Stewart warned that children under eight should not use mobile phones at all and he "did not favour" mobile phone masts being situated near schools.

City council leader Ross Wilmott today said introducing a ban on masts within school premises should be investigated.

Fullhurst Community College, in Imperial Avenue, Braunstone, has about four years left on its contract with Orange.

Headteacher Bill Morris said the mast was already at the school when he joined in 2001 and he was desperate to take it down.

He said: "If we could get rid of the mast tomorrow then we would, but it is not as clear cut as that.

"We received an application about 18 months ago to have the lease extended but the governors rejected it on the grounds of health and safety concerns.

"What we have been trying to do ever since that application is to fight a legal battle about the terms of the original contract, which we want to terminate."

Eyres Monsell Primary School, in Simmins Crescent, has at least two years left on its contract with Orange.

Headteacher Sally Morrison said: "Although it does bring much-needed cash into the school, it is a moral issue and I believe it should not be in school grounds.

"We've tried to get out of the contract in the past but have been told it is very difficult by our legal advisers. If it is at all possible in the future, then we will try again to get it removed."

Since 2000, the county council has had a policy of not allowing masts on school sites, and any previously in place have been removed, but this is not the case in the city.

City council leader Ross Willmott said: "We will be calling for a report into what we ought to be doing in light of concerns expressed by many people."

Today the contractors defended the decision to have the masts up at schools in the city.

Inigo Wilson, a spokesman for Orange, said that the company had no plans to remove the masts from schools.

He said: "All the masts transmit nearly horizontally.

"What this means it that the one place you will get no radiation from the phone mast is underneath it. Because they offer little or no radiation to the pupils below, they are a useful source of revenue at the schools.

"Removing them is not practical because the operator may look for a site nearby which may be a few hundred yards away, which could lead to a greater risk."

When asked about school's not being able to end contracts Mr Wilson said he could not comment on individual cases but added: "It all depends on whether there are break clauses in the contracts. If not they have to run to the end."

Parents of children at the schools are unhappy about the masts.

Rachel Smith's eight-year-old son Kasey Taylor goes to Eyres Monsell Primary School.

She said: "The mast is in the centre of the playground and all the children play around it. It's dangerous."

Tina Nutt, who has three sons at Lancaster Boys', said: "I would like to see the school get rid of it."

A recent survey also revealed nearly one third of all schools in Leicester have a mast sited nearby.


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Februar 2005

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