A CONTROVERSIAL phone mast has received the green light to go up in between two Winchester schools.

Mobile phone giants O2 will start building the 10m monopole and radio base station later this month after telecom sub-committee members voted unanimously in favour of the proposal.

Highways representatives had forced an initial application to be withdrawn saying the base station cabinet was on part of the pavement that was too narrow and would cause pedestrians to walk on to the road when maintenance work was carried out.

They withdrew their objection after fresh designs were drawn up and the proposed location moved to a wider section of the pavement near the railway bridge in Andover Road.

The city council received nine letters of objection and two members of the public attended the meeting in the Jolly Farmer pub car park on Friday St Paul ward councillor Ray Pearce said he was worried about the number of masts that have gone up in Winchester recently and hoped that network providers could agree to share masts in the future.

"I'm concerned that they are popping up like mushrooms," said Cllr Pearce. Fellow ward councillor Geoffrey Bennetts said residents had expressed concerns about the proximity of the mast in relation to Peter Symonds College and Osborne School.

"Every opportunity should be explored for mast sharing," said Cllr Bennetts.

Gavin Smith, of Waldon Telecom, representing O2, told the committee the mast was needed to enhance the O2 network coverage for rail users so they didn't lose connection on their journeys. It would also enhance local coverage.

Mr Smith added negotiations to share the Vodafone mast at nearby Hunts Frozen Foods came to nothing because they couldn't get the coverage required.

Recommending approval for the application, case officer Simon Avery said: "It's the same height as existing lamp posts and would blend in with existing street furniture so it isn't visually intrusive."

Karen Barratt, a representative of the Wessex Registry of Active Masts, urged the committee to consider health risks.

She said it was an "extraordinary" and "terrible" position for a mast and thought it would make walking on the path difficult for people with pushchairs.

"It's not even serving people in Winchester but people on the trains. I find it quite amazing," she said.

Chairman of the telecom sub-committee Mike Read said the application had to be determined on "siting and appearance" and all three committee members in attendance, Anthony De Peyer, Robert Johnston and Cecily Sutton approved the application.