THEY were defeated in their long-running battle against a mobile phone mast.

But the residents of a Winchester avenue have had the last laugh – they are preparing to celebrate its removal.

The residents of Byron Avenue, Fulflood, fought a five-year campaign of planning appeals, demonstrations, and marches between 2000 and 2005.

They eventually lost and the mast was erected by Orange.

But now it has stopped being used and is set to be removed in the next eight weeks, according to the phone company.

Orange merged with T-Mobile in 2010 to form EE and that new company has been reviewing its coverage and removing masts that are no longer needed.

Leading campaigner Karen Barratt, who still does not have a mobile phone, said: “We are delighted it has come to an end.

“I just wish my husband, Mike, who put so much into the campaign was still alive to see it. The mast campaign took over our lives for five years. It was stressful, time-consuming and expensive.

“It demonstrates how powerless communities are when faced with big companies who have unlimited access and influence over Government officials and politicians. Sadly we are seeing the same thing now with fracking.”

A spokesman for EE said: “When we merged we had too many sites and we are going through the process of review and removing those we no longer need. We are removing several thousand around the country.

“It was switched off about a week ago and is no longer serving any traffic but it will remain for up to eight weeks before we remove everything.”

He said its removal had nothing to do with the five-year campaign against it.