By Janaki Mahadevan

Phone giant T-Mobile has failed to win permission to build a phone mast on Green Belt land in Shenley after a Government inspector dismissed its appeal last Friday.

The company, which challenged Hertsmere Borough Council's decision to refuse it planning permission, has had a temporary mast at London Colney Cricket Club in Green Street for nearly four years. That could now be removed next month after council enforcement action, leaving the company with no network coverage in the area.

T-Mobile had applied to build a permanent mast on the grounds of the cricket club but councillors refused permission in July last year, prompting the appeal.

In his report dismissing the appeal, the Government inspector said: "Because of their size, the mast and the associated cabinets and other equipment would reduce the openness of the Green Belt, and would cause some limited harm.

"In order for very special circumstances to exist sufficient to outweigh harm to the Green Belt, and other harm to the character and appearance of the area, a vigorous assessment of alternative locations is required."

The temporary mast was built after one erected on the Shenley Water Tower, in Porters Park estate, had to be removed when renovation work started on the building at the beginning of 2003.

The council issued an enforcement notice for T-Mobile to take down the temporary mast next month. If it is not removed, the council could take the company to court.

John Marks, clerk of Shenley Parish Council, said: "We are disappointed that the whole process has gone on for so long. But that is how the system works and we are bound by that.

"The mobile operator obviously wanted to keep the mast up so tried all it could to do so and you can't hold that against it.

"I do laugh every time it is called a temporary mast because it has been here for so long, but I am glad it is finally being taken down."

A spokesman for T-Mobile said: "We are considering the judgement of the inspector and his reasons for the dismissal of the appeal. We are also looking at other options in the area because we still have to provide a service there."