HEADTEACHERS at two Bournemouth schools are urging local people to fight plans for a new mobile phone mast a move which has "horrified" parents of youngsters at the schools.

Phone operator O2 wants to put up a 12.5 metre mobile mast on Warnford Road in Southbourne, disguised as a fake telegraph pole.

But the bid has shocked staff at nearby Stourfield Infant and Junior Schools, who fear the health of their pupils could be put at risk.

Headteacher at the infant school, Cathy Kirkham, said: "The children in my school are very young.

"Nobody can be certain that such a mast will not have a detrimental effect on children's development and health."

Junior school headteacher Emma Rawson added: "Both schools are working exceedingly hard to fulfil the government agenda of Every Child Matters. This includes helping children to stay healthy and safe.

"We are well supported in this by our community and so plans to erect a mobile phone mast close to our schools have caused a fierce reaction from our parents."

The headteachers say their concerns about the plans are strengthened by evidence found in the government-commissioned Stewart Report on telecommunications, which suggests that children are more vulnerable to exposure and will absorb more energy from external electromagnetic fields than adults.

And parents of children at the schools are already joining the fight against the mast.

Mum Natalie McMullen, whose nine-year-old daughter attends Stourfield School, said: "I think it's disgusting that they want to put this mast so close to the school and houses.

"All the mums I've talked to are horrified about this. My daughter has only two more years at the school, but I feel for the children who are in the infants."

Phone operator O2 said it chose the mast site on Warnford Road after rejecting several other potential locations that were even closer to the school.

The company also says it did not consult with the schools before submitting its planning proposal to Bournemouth council as they were not within 200m of the mast.

The Stewart Report identified the area between 50m to 200m from the base of a mast as where the signals will be at their strongest.

It recommended that both the school and local authority should be consulted if a mast is sited within this distance from schools.

Both Stourfield headteachers say they intend to go along to a meeting of Bournemouth council's planning board on July 17 to "do all they can to exercise their duty of care and protect their pupils and staff".