Furious residents in Leavesden have blasted plans to build a towering mobile phone mast just yards from their homes.

Telecoms firms O2 and Vodafone have applied to build the 11.8 metre mast in Louvain Way, much to the ire of the local community.

Residents fear their house prices will tumble and their health suffer as a result of the mast. Like most homeowners across the country, however, they can do very little to stop it.

Under so-called permitted development rights, granted by the previous government, phone operators can build masts under 15 metres in height without formal planning permission.

Planning authorities, in this case Watford Borough Council, are merely given 56 days’ notice to raise objections, consult with the public and suggest improvements but have limited powers of refusal.

Unproven health concerns, meanwhile, cannot be taken into account because the Government is satisfied that the mobile phone network is safe.

Jeffrey Donovan, who lives less than ten metres from the proposed mast, has collected more than 100 signatures on a petition against the mast.

He said: “We’re all so angry that this can be built outside our homes and there’s nothing we can do about it. It will look terrible, will be used as a climbing frame and nobody really knows about the health dangers. If anybody wants to sell their house from now on a big mobile phone mast will take money off the price.”

Mum-of-three Sarah Palmer added: “All the local kids play out on the green and people are worried about their health.”

The residents have been invited to speak at the council’s November development control meeting, when the application will be discussed.

Mayor Dorothy Thornhill expressed sympathy with the residents but warned that any attempt by the council to block the mast would almost certainly be overturned in a legal appeal. She said: “This is something that was introduced by the last government and it is grossly unfair. But there is very little that we can do.”