A furious Chorleywood businessman who admits he is powerless to prevent the building of a 40 foot mobile phone mast just yards from his home has warned: “this could happen to anyone.”

Michael Savva, who lives on the corner of Valley Road and Berry Lane with his wife and three children, learned earlier this year that Orange was to erect the 12 metre device next to his garden fence.

When complete it will tower above the large detached property, potentially shedding tens of thousands of pounds from its value and causing health concerns to its occupants.

Like every homeowner in the county, however, Mr Savva can do nothing to fend off what he describes as a “nightmare.”

Indeed, under current planning laws even Three Rivers District Council – responsible by law for policing even the most trivial of development applications – is powerless to stop the mast because of wide-ranging powers granted to mobile phone companies by the government.

Under so-called permitted development rights, they need only seek “prior approval” for masts under 15 metres in height. Councils are given 56 days to raise objections and consult with the public but have no power to prevent the developments if the landowner, in this case Transport for London, agrees.

Mr Savva fears the development will decimate the value of his property, pose health risks to his children and endanger passing traffic.

He said: “The long and short of this is that they are putting this thing right next to my house and there is nothing I can do about it.

“This just shows how big companies can do what they like to ordinary people like me. Everyone should know that this can happen to anybody – it could happen to them.

“How would you feel if you were me? How would you feel if you had worked 35 years of your life to pay for a house and then see it ruined? It’s like a nightmare.”

Three Rivers District Council, however, which raised no objection to the scheme at a meeting in July, is only able to consider its location and appearance.

It is not allowed to take into account as yet unproven health risks and must, for the time-being at least, adhere to a nine-year-old Government report which gave the technology the all clear.

The authority, however, does not allow masts to be built on its land and has a policy of objecting to masts positioned near schools.

Council leader Ann Shaw expressed both sympathy for the family and her frustration at the law.

She said: “This is very frustrating thing for everybody in local government to deal with; that somebody can come in from outside and dictate what is going to happen in our area.

“We asked them [Orange] to move it further from the house but they said no. As the law stands there is nothing we can do to force them.”

Councillor Amrit Mediratta, an architect and planning expert, added: “This law definitely needs to be looked at. At the moment this can happen to anybody and that is not right.”