MORE than 700 people have vowed to fight plans for a mobile phone mast in a popular Hampshire woodland.

Protesters against the proposed plans for an 81ft mast in Stoke Park Wood, in Bishopstoke, joined forces with Eastleigh MP Chris Huhne yesterday to hand over a petition in a bid to halt plans.

The Guardians of Stoke Park Wood want to preserve the unspoilt beauty of the woodland, which for hundreds of years has been a haven for families and a sanctuary for wildlife.

It is hoped that the petition, which seeks to protect the enjoyment of the woods and stop the "vandalism", will put pressure on Eastleigh Council planning officials to dismiss the plans submitted by Hutchinson 3G.

Graham Mole, one of the guardians, said: "Feelings are running very high. People are exceptionally fond of these woods and will be very upset if the plans are agreed.

"I just hope now that the right decision is made at the committee meeting next month. We will make sure we are there, picketing to save Stoke Park Wood."

Amanda Oosthuizen, another guardian, added: "We think it is vital to keep the woods as they are. It is a great place to take the dogs and just get away from it all.

"All my teenage daughters go there with their friends and walk the dogs, where they can have some freedom away from the little houses in tight spaces. It's a place where you have room to think."

The planning application submitted by the mobile phone giant seeks permission to install a radio base station comprising a 25m telecommunications tower, three antennas, three 300mm-diameter dish antenna and radio equipment housing.

Mr Huhne said: "I think it would be a great shame if the mast were put up in these woods.

"This is a very attractive, unspoilt part of the area where people walk and take their dogs. It has probably been like that for hundreds of years and something really ought to be done to protect it.

"It would be an intrusion into the woods to install a very high mast. At 81ft it is pretty big. It is a real issue."

Hutchinson 3G has said that it has considered the concerns that have been raised but believed the woods to be the best location.