Schools, old people's homes and children's playgrounds across Birmingham could get lucrative financial handouts if they agree to have controversial mobile phone masts sited on their land.
The idea stems from a city council scrutiny inquiry into telecommunications policy, which is recommending ending a temporary 17-month ban on placing masts on local authority land or buildings.
In return for agreeing to have a mast, governors would get at least half of the annual rental to boost school funds. With annual leasing fees topping £10,000, schools could make £50,000 for a ten-year contract.
Council-run old people's homes would be offered a similar deal.
Rental from masts on council housing estates and playgrounds would be used to improve community facilities.
The proposition was condemned last night by a leading anti-mast campaigner.
Eileen O'Connor, from Sutton Coldfield, said schools and residential homes would be tempted to make money without properly considering health risks.
Mrs O'Connor said: "They will be encouraged by the telecommunications industry to take the offer and then foolishly suffer the consequences."
Mrs O'Connor, a cancer sufferer who believes her illness was worsened by radiation from masts, was saddened that the council was likely to end the ban on siting masts on local authority property.
She said: "I sat through every one of the scrutiny committee hearings and there was no evidence given that masts are safe. They are likely to accelerate the growth of tumours in people who already have them.
"If the committee hearings had been a court of law, the telecommunications industry would have been found guilty. I just don't know how the council can lift the ban when there is so much uncertainty about mobile phones and health risks."
The council already has lease agreements with mobile phone companies at 134 sites across the city under contracts approved before the ban came into force. Most masts are placed on high-rise flats and offices.
Scrutiny committee chairman Mick Wilkes insisted that Birmingham would not become a "soft touch".
The committee's recommendations stipulate that the ban should only be lifted if mobile phone operators agree to independent checks on the operation of the masts.
Proposals include: * Independent audits of emissions to ensure radiation safety levels are not exceeded * Regular inspections to make sure masts conform to the original specification supplied * Development of a standard lease agreement enabling the contracts to be terminated should future research show masts to have adverse health effects.
Coun Wilkes (Lib Dem, Hall Green) said Birmingham was planning the most stringent conditions on the siting of masts anywhere in the country. Other councils would probably follow suit.
He stressed the council could not ignore the popularity of mobile phones and the requirement of the business community to benefit from easier communication. Birmingham could not afford to have "black holes" where mobile phones could not work.
At the same time, it was necessary to recognise public concern about health risks.
He added: "We are proposing a very strict regime with tough checks. The conditions we require are the most exacting to be found anywhere."
Coun Wilkes pointed out that, if the ban were to continue, mobile phone companies would take advantage of Government planning guidelines to site masts on privately-owned land or next to roads. The council would in that case be powerless to prevent the uncontrolled expansion of masts.
"Not only would we have less control, but the distribution of masts and possibly the numbers may be worse," he added.