AN APPLICATION by mobile phone operators to erect a 21-metre tall telecoms mast has been narrowly approved by East Lothian councillors.

The decision was branded "disappointing" by the owner of a business near the proposed site.

The Vodafone/O2 application to build the mast at Newhailes Industrial Estate was granted after the council's planning committee voted by six votes to four last Tuesday to approve the proposal.

The application had initially been referred to the committee by Musselburgh West councillor John Williamson (SNP), who also voted against the proposal.

One of the objectors was Dennis Walton, managing director of Rower Developments Ltd, based in the industrial estate.

Speaking after the committee's decision, Mr Walton told the Courier: "Obviously I'm very disappointed as we had offered alternative locations.

"Also, given the recent high winds, we have concerns about masts two-and-a-half times the height of my building, which is an office. There's not a lot we can do about it.

"This land is zoned for industrial use, and I have been asking the council to tidy up this bit of land and if we could take it over. We could maintain it and use it for storage and other purposes, which is what it's for.

"But the council has refused to develop that proposal and, bizarrely, has allocated a five metre square section which they are going to lease to this company." In the application, agents for Vodafone/O2 said the mast would lead to the removal of two existing ones - at the junction of Newhailes Road/Clayknowes Crescent and on Market Street.

Mr Williamson told the Courier: "My concerns were about the visual impact of the mast. It's going to be quite high above the treeline. From Inveresk Gardens, this mast will be visible for quite a bit." Musselburgh East and Carberry independent councillor John Caldwell explained why he supported the application.

"There was nothing really in the planning rules that could have justified voting against it," he said.

"All the other options [alternative sites suggested by Mr Walton] were really just yards away and weren't going to make that much difference.

"I would have preferred to have seen the mast somewhere outside the area so it wasn't being seen from houses." At the planning committee, the four Labour members - Willie Innes, Donald Grant, Andy Forrest and Norman Hampshire - joined Mr Caldwell (Ind) and Stuart MacKinnon (Lib Dem) in voting the proposals through.

The opponents were Provost Sheena Richardson (Lib Dem) and SNP members Mr Williamson, Stuart Currie and Paul McLennan.

Jacquie Bell (Lib Dem) and depute provost Roger Knox (SNP) abstained, while planning convenor Barry Turner (Lib Dem) did not vote as declared he had previous contact with Mr Walton.