EXPERTS are to investigate whether there are possible health risks of mobile phone masts in Pendle.

The borough now has 37 mast sites, ranging from single antennae to compounds containing masts, base stations and equipment boxes.

And phone companies are hoping to build or extend 19 more sites across Pendle.

Coun Sonia Robinson called for the review after fellow Liberal Democrat councillor and anti-mast campaigner Gary Bird told Pendle Council's executive committee of allegations that masts put out thousands of times the radiation recommended to be safe in the latest guidelines.

Coun Bird, a founder member of the campaign group PRISM (Pendle Residents against the Insensitive Siting of Masts), said: "The new generation of mobile phones which take videos need many more masts and this council should fight against the demolition of our heritage for the sake of these 3G masts.

"But the public concerns over health effects are the main point. These new masts haven't had enough tests to make sure they're safe."

Members were discussing a register of all the masts in the borough, which is being put together to comply with guidelines setting out future planning policy.

The working group to examine the alleged health risks, as well as the impact of masts on local architecture, will be set up in around two years, when the development framework is finished.

Coun Robinson said: "For too long we have not been taking this as seriously as perhaps we should. I don't know what we can address as a council but we should certainly be making an effort to work with and consult with people who are well-informerd on these issues."

Coun John David told the meeting: "There is no doubt that we are all concerned about the effects and we are all doubtful about the protestations from the government that there area none. We will all be happy to go into great detail when the report is produced in two years' time.

"Let nobody assume that this council is complacent about the potential dangers, but we must also bear in mind what we are told from on high and the planning appeals that are likely to come back to us if we refuse more masts."