PADIHAM pensioner Dennis Cannon is launching an action group against phone masts which he regards as a health hazard.

He has hired the council chamber at Padiham Town Hall for a public meeting with the intention of setting up a campaign committee.

Mr Cannon, who successfully led opposition to a proposed phone mast at St Leonard's Church, Padiham, believes Britain should follow the American system of not siting phone masts within 250 metres of a residential property.

Mr Cannon said: "It is not just for Padiham but for everyone in the district.

"People are not aware how hazardous they can be and I want to form an action group which can then urge Burnley Council to either follow the American system or to impose a moratorium on them until the whole safety issue has been properly cleared up."

Mr Cannon, a chartered engineer with three children and six grandchildren, said the government had told councils that planning applications with regard to masts could not be decided on health grounds.

Any such decisions would be overturned, with costs being awarded against the councils involved.

Mr Cannon said that two weeks ago the government had set a precedent against that by backing Harlow Council who had refused permission for a mast in the middle of a housing estate.

He said: "What is good for Harlow must be good for Burnley or anywhere else."

Mr Cannon added: "I think there are three or four new applications for masts in the planning pipeline in Burnley.

"I have strong concerns about the health issues. People don't realise they and their children could be suffering."

The Stewart group's report to government had declared them safe but called for more research. "Why more research if they are safe?" he asked. He added: "When an action group is formed we will try to meet with local planning officials."

The Environment Minister Nick Raynsford has issued revised planning policy guidance to councils on health issues with more consultation of local residents.

It remained the government's firm view that the planning system was not the appropriate mechanism for determining health safeguards. If a proposed development met international guidelines it should not be necessary for a local planning authority to consider health aspects further.

The public meeting which will be held next Wednesday at 6.30pm and is open to all.