TIME is running out for the residents of Ashley Heath, near Ringwood, to lodge their objections against a plan to put up a 30-metre high mobile phone mast in the village.

Mobile phone company Orange PCS Ltd wants to build the mast comprising three antennae, four microwave dishes, six equipment cabinets, an electricity meter and associated fencing on land at the rear of the Forestry Commission office, just off Horton Road.

Objectors to the proposal have only until tomorrow to lodge their protests in writing with East Dorset district council.

Plans for the mast have already upset some residents and St Leonards and St Ives parish councillors, who have fears about its implications on their health, as well as the prospect of living in the shadow of such a "large" structure.

Parish clerk Ann Jacobs said: "The mast is too close to residential areas, it is too dominant and is a sensitive structure, with adverse implications in respect of public health."

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party Euro-MP for South East England, warned that safety guidelines for phone masts are inadequate.

She said: "Research conducted on behalf of the European Parliament has demonstrated those safety guidelines governing the exposure of radiation to the public from mobile phone base stations are inadequate.

"In the face of real health risks we should adopt the precautionary principle and stop allowing masts to be built at sites which are close to residential areas."

Ms Lucas added: "However, the planning laws make it difficult for local authorities to take risks to human health into account when deciding whether to give phone operators permission to erect masts.

"The government must review the legislation and require local councils to adopt the precautionary principle, when considering the siting of mobile phone masts."

If approved, the Ashley Heath mast would be the second to be built in the village.

Residents at Sunnyside Caravan Park already live within metres of a BT Cellnet mast, which caused controversy when it was in the planning stages.

East Dorset district council spokesman James Brightman said of the Orange mast application: "It is par for the course, although 30 metres is pretty tall. The government require 21 days for objections to be voiced and the time frame is considered to be satisfactory."

The council confirmed that there have been no objections from either Dorset county highways or the East Dorset tree officer.

A spokesman for the Forestry Commission said that an agreement had been reached in principle with Orange and the phone mast was going through the planning stages.

When asked if the commission had any concerns about the health implications for its employees at the Ashley Heath branch, the spokesperson said: "None, because the mast is around 80 yards away."