A MOBILE phone mast will be erected just 200 yards from a Bolton school after councillors said their hands were tied by planning guidelines.

Governors at the 330-pupil Church Road Primary School had objected to the 45 ft high O2 mast proposed for the junction of Moss Bank Way and Captain's Clough Road in Smithills.

Objectors were concerned about possible health effects and also the impact on bats and owls found in the area.

Residents also claimed the structure would be an eyesore.

Joesph Crook, vice-chairman of the Church Road school governors, told Bolton Council's planning and highways committee: "The radiation emitted could be dangerous for our children, who are aged between three and 12.

"We can't identify any possible advantage to them. The Stewart Report commissioned by the Government says masts should not be near to schools."

Cllr Roger Hayes also called for the application to be rejected, saying the mast appeared to be of "low importance to the network".

He said that while Government guidelines meant health grounds could not be used to justify refusing the plan, members should reject it because of the mast's visual impact.

But Cllr Laurie Williamson said the council would be likely to lose an appeal.

"The bottom line view of the Government is that there are no appreciable or definable health risks from masts," he said.

"If they can't put a mast here, where can they put it?"

Councillors voted 13-5 in favour of the mast, leaving Mr Crook "disturbed" by the decision.

"I have tested the reception on an O2 phone in the area and it seems fine," he said.

"We're very disappointed. Above all, we're thinking of our children."

O2 spokesman Tom Powell said the application had met guidelines on emissions and was accompanied by an International Commission on No-Ionizing Radiation Protection certificate.

Mr Powell said the mast was needed to boost network coverage in the area.