CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating after a government planning inspector threw out plans for a controversial Tetra broadcast mast at Valley Park, Chandler's Ford.

Airwave 02 has been told by the inspector Bridget Campbell to take down the 22-metre mast - much to the delight of residents and councillors.

The police - who share the system with other emergency services - say the decision could hit their communications system hard.

South Midlands Communications put up the mast at School Close on the Chandler's Ford Industrial Estate without permission and was then allowed to retain the mast for a temporary period two years ago.

Council chiefs issued an enforcement notice in July last year but the communications giant appealed against the removal.

The mast was to provide coverage for Hampshire Constabulary and other emergency services in the Chandler's Ford and Eastleigh region.

Miss Campbell agreed that there is a need for the mast in the area and this was reflected in the council's decision to grant temporary permission.

The inspector's report says there were two main issues at stake when considering the appeal.

These were whether alternative sites were properly explored and the effect the development would have on the character and appearance of the area.

The inspector made it clear in her report that the mast's appearance was not to her liking.

She said: "I conclude that the development damages the character and appearance of the area.

"There is no evidence the appellant considered or discussed with the council, any alternative design for this site when the decision was taken to retain the mast permanently rather than a temporary solution.

"In these circumstances and bearing in mind the harm I have identified, I consider that there is a conflict with both national and local telecommunication policy which seek solutions where environmental impact is minimised."

Hampshire police's Airwave project manager Mark Cooper said: "The Tetra mast does not belong to Hampshire Constabulary, although it is partly used to strengthen the network used for police communication.

"The loss of this mast could potentially have a significant effect on the use of our airwaves handsets.

"In this case tests would need to be carried out to determine the precise impact this would have on force communications in consultation with the service provider."

Local councillor Alan Dowden said: "I am absolutely delighted and so are the people of Valley Park. The mast is such an ugly monstrosity and people are genuinely worried about the effect it could have on their health.

"Most people didn't think we would win. When the news came through everyone was overjoyed. It's a wonderful victory. It proves that people power does work if people stick together.

"The mast has to come down within six months."