VILLAGERS are demanding the removal of a giant phone mast which they insist is a blot on the landscape.

The Houston community has been left shocked after the 20-metre-tall Vodafone mast was erected near a number of homes in Magnus Road.

Residents and members of Houston Community Council have formed an action group in a bid to have the “eyesore” removed.

And a petition in support of their cause has already gained hundreds of signatures.

John McEvoy, chairman of Houston Community Council, told The Gazette: “There was no significant public consultation with local residents and the recent change in the law to the effect that telecommunication companies can now erect masts wherever they like, without planning permission, flies in the face of local democracy. “

Changes in Scottish planning legislation mean that telecom companies can install masts up to 25 metres high without planning permission if they secure a ‘prior approval application’, which offers less scrutiny than a traditional planning bid.

Councillor Alison Dowling, who represents Houston, Crosslee and Linwood, said: “Worryingly, there is no guarantee that other telecom companies won’t site additional masts at the same place.

“I will continue to support the action group’s efforts to have the mast re-sited and to put pressure on the Scottish Government to rethink their recent changes to planning regulations.”

Vodafone argue that it identified a need to improve coverage to customers in Houston and, after considering nine alternative sites, applied for consent to develop a base station on land to the north of Magnus Road.

A spokeswoman for the company said: “Customers expect to be able to use their mobiles and devices where they live, work and travel.

“Base stations are low-powered devices which cover approximately half a mile in radius, therefore we have to put base stations close to our customers.

“The local councillors and community council were consulted prior to the application.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman added: “The mast at Magnus Road, Houston, was the subject of an application for planning permission made before new legislative changes for new ground-based masts came into force in July 2017.

“The application was processed accordingly and granted planning permission by Renfrewshire Council.

“Permitted development rights for new ground-based masts still allow for planning authority control of their siting and appearance through prior approval.

“Planning authorities are also required to notify immediate neighbours of any applications prior to approval being considered.”

The link to the online petition can be found at