RESIDENTS in Upton have raised objections to Vodafone's plan to site a phone mast near a school for children with special educational needs.

The telecommunications giant is due to apply for permission to erect a 12.5-metre high mast, with associated radio equipment cabinet, that would be housed in a timber pole near Hayfield school in Manor Drive.

The company has written to households and the school informing them of their plan, which is part of a network sharing agreement with Telefonica UK Limited, and intends to submit a formal application within the next week.

The Globe has been contacted by householders who are against the plan.

They feel there are better sites for the mast and are concerned about the perceived health risks.

Among them is Keith Buckley, 70, who lives in nearby Caernarvon Close.

He said: "There's a lot of waste land that could be used to site this.

"It doesn't need to be put near a busy road or near the school.

"I know many of my neighbours are very much up in arms about what Vodafone plan to do.

"You hear a lot about the health concerns people have about phone masts.

"I don't know what they are, but I think Vodafone should consider the public's views before going ahead with the application."

A Vodafone spokesman said today: "Both Vodafone and O2 have seen an increase in demand for data services, as more people switch to smartphones such as iPhones and Blackberries and to meet this need we have identified that we have to improve 3G coverage in Upton.

"After an extensive search of the area, we concluded that the most appropriate place to site a mast to improve coverage is on Manor Drive, utilising the existing lighting columns and pole to help the site blend in.

"Masts are relatively low-powered, covering a small area approximately half a mile in radius and therefore have to be placed close to where people want to use their devices.

"In March, we started a period of pre-application consultation where we wrote to ward councillors and the local school.

"We have received a couple of objection letters from the ward councillors and school.

"We intend to submit the planning application in the next couple of days.

"We recognise that some communities are concerned regarding the deployment of radio base stations close to residential areas but without radio base stations, mobile phones will not be able to work.

"All of our base stations are designed, built and operated in accordance with stringent international guidelines laid down by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing radiation protection.

"The adoption of these guidelines has the formal backing of independent bodies such as the World Health Organisation.

"Typical public exposures from our base stations will be many hundreds, if not thousands, of times below these guidelines."

The Globe has contacted Hayfield School and is awaiting response.