MOBILE phone masts have been installed in East Lancashire’s public buildings – including schools and a hospital – without the proposals being made public.

The Lancashire Telegraph has discovered that hundreds of masts are dotted across the area, with some of the structures on publicly-funded sites such as fire stations and churches, often without nearby residents even being told.

It comes amid renewed fears about the possible health risks of mobile phone signals.

Bosses have defended the installations, saying studies have failed to prove the masts cause any serious harm to those close by.

But critics have called for greater transparency and one watchdog demanded a ‘no-go list’ of locations, such as schools and hospitals, where mobile phone masts are banned.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Lancashire Telegraph obtained lists of mobile phone locations from six East Lancashire borough councils and Lancashire County Council.

Mobile phone firms need planning permission for masts over 15 metres tall, although structures can be built on private property without it if town halls do not object within 56 days.

Based on information from Hyndburn, Burnley, Pendle, Rossendale and Lancashire County councils, there are at least 165 mobile phone masts and another 50 proposed.

Our survey revealed an Orange mast has been at Burnley General Hospital since 1996, but even the borough’s council leader, Gordon Birtwistle, knew nothing about it.

He said: “I would have thought people would be surprised to hear that there’s a mast on top of Burnley hospital when there’s no agreement about the health risks.”

Coun Roy Davies, Blackburn with Darwen’s health watchdog, said: “I would like certain areas, like schools and hospitals, to be no-go areas.”

A mast on Barnoldswick fire station earns the fire service £9,750 a year.

But the installation, close to houses in the town, was branded ‘diabolical’ by Pendle councillor David Whipp.

Hyndburn MP Greg Pope said that in future, the structures should be built away from public buildings.

Blackburn with Darwen Council said it did not hold a list of masts.

A World Health Organisation 10-year study, due out soon, is reported to be set to conclude that the devices and masts can be linked to brain tumours.

But the Mobile Operators Association, which represents Britain’s mobile phone companies, has previously said scientific research had found no proven health effects from mobile phone use or masts.