Friday, 27 October, 2000, 08:16 GMT 09:16 UK
Mast near houses
Mobile phone masts have caused controversy
Angry villagers in Perthshire say they will continue their occupation a planned mobile phone mast site next to a primary school until BT "come to their senses".

The residents of Burrelton, near Coupar Angus, moved onto the site on Thursday amid fears that microwave radiation could affect the health of children at the 78-pupil school.

The mast has been delivered to the site but so far, no attempt has been made to put it up.

A spokesman for the villagers insisted: "Locals, however, are determined not to let their guard down and are committed to manning the site for as long as it takes for BT to come to their senses."

From what we understand mobile masts can cause cellular damage and can impair children's development

Local mother, Isla Syme
A spokeswoman for BT Cellnet said the company had faced similar situations before elsewhere and each case had been judged on its own merits.

She said: "We would not get the police involved or anything like that, but what usually happens is we get someone up to speak to a representative of the group to allay their fears and explain all we are doing is trying to improve the service in the area."

Scottish National Party leader and local MSP John Swinney is meeting protesters and accepting a petition against the mast.

The proposed mast site is on land leased from a local farmer. Locals say BT has been offered an alternate site, which it has rejected.

'Remove' children warning

Local councillor John Lloyd said that if the company went ahead with the plan, parents would remove their children from the school.

He said: "I am concerned that MSPs do not have enough information about the perceived health risks about these masts.

"Because they cannot be expected to be experts on everything, I would call for civil servants to gather more information about the health risks associated with mobile masts and share it with MSPs."

Parents are worried about their children's health
One mother, Katie Gibb, said: "We are already consulting lawyers from the Scottish Human Rights Centre who are hopeful that we have a case under an article of the Human Rights Act which guarantees respect for private and family life.

"They can have a mast if they want and we know a local landowner offered them a site further away from the school but they turned it down."

Isla Syme, whose son attends the school, said: "From what we understand mobile masts can cause cellular damage and can impair children's development.

"We are going to be here for as long as it takes and we're prepared to go to any lengths to stop them building this mast."

New guidelines

The siting of mobile phone masts has been the source of much controversy.

New guidelines were announced by Environment Minister Sarah Boyack last month, and all mobile phone masts will now be subject to full planning control.

Communities will also have the right of communities to be consulted, and there will be careful scientific monitoring of masts sited close to schools and hospitals.