PLANS to put a mobile phone mast on top of a Redditch office block have been approved, despite some workers' fears that it could affect their health.

Orange has been granted permission to install the mast on top of Grosvenor House, Prospect Hill by Redditch Council officers under delegated powers, meaning the plans did not go before a planning committe.

Several people working for the Redditch Advertiser's advertising department, based on the building's fifth floor, objected to the plans and said they would leave their jobs if the mast went up.

Jane Huxley said: "I'm not prepared to work here. I want to see my children grow up and I don't want to be exposed to any unnecessary risks."

Michelle Buckley said: "They said 50 years ago that cigarettes weren't dangerous- there's not enough research there."

Suzanne Smith said she could not see why people were asked for their opinions on the mast if it going up was a foregone conclusion, while Yvonne Sealey said she did not think it was properly publicised.

A council spokesman explained that Government legislation gives telecommunications operators certain development rights to erect telecommunications equipment without needing to apply for normal planning permission.

For the erection of telecommunication masts under 15m, the telecom operator applies to the local planning authority for Prior Approval' for the siting and appearance of the mast.

As the council has just 56 days to rule on the prior approval, the normal way such applications are dealt with is by officer-delegated powers so that time limits are met.

"Any local planning authority, planning committee (and its officers) must decide any application on its planning merits, not upon the number of public objections to any proposal," the spokesman said.

"A proposal for a telecommunications mast is not an application for planning permission as such."

Any proposal submitted with an International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection certificate is deemed to comply with standards regarding public exposure to emissions, so the council cannot refuse it on health grounds.

"We could possibly object on visual grounds, the question of whether there is a need or whether it could be combined with an existing installation," added the spokesman.