A list of sensitive sites in Birmingham where approval for new mobile phone masts is unlikely to be granted is to be handed to telecommunications companies.

Draft supplementary planning guidance, drawn up by the city council in response to public concern about the possible health implications, warns that all new masts should be designed to minimise visual impact and should be located well away from houses and schools.

Areas where masts will only be accepted if it can be shown there are no other more suitable locations include:

* Listed buildings and buildings on the Birmingham list of architectural interest.

* Conservation areas and areas adjacent to conservation areas. n Historic parks and gardens.

* Schools, hospitals and GPs' surgeries.

The new guidance states: "Areas that are predominantly residential can be very sensitive from the point of view of residents who may perceive the installation of telecommunications equipment to be a significant visual intrusion if they are close to and visible from within their homes or from their gardens.

"They can cause residents undue concern about perceived health effects. Accordingly, residential areas should be avoided, wherever possible in favour of less sensitive locations.

"Where applications are submitted in such areas the council will require them to be accompanied by evidence confirming that no reasonable alternatives exist. In all cases equipment should be designed to minimise the impact on the visual amenity of the area."

Phone companies are also urged to avoid all recreational land, including playing fields.

Less sensitive locations where the installation of masts "is more likely to be acceptable" include commercial and industrial areas, community premises excluding education and health uses, new tall buildings, electricity pylons and sites screened by trees.

The new guidance is the result of three years of consideration by the council, following a decision in 2004 to place a moratorium on new masts on local authority-owned land and buildings. The ban was later lifted.

The council is urging companies to consider mast-sharing wherever possible.

The guidance goes on: "Opportunities should be taken to use existing screening or backdrop buildings to reduce the impact of development. Masts, antennae and cabins are most prominent when sited in open locations when viewed against the skyline and open land.

"Such locations should be avoided, as they are unlikely to be acceptable."

Planners are promising to work with operators to explore the merits of camouflaging telecommunications equipment.

However, the guidance makes it clear that the council has no powers to refuse any application for a mast on the ground of perceived harm to public health. The Government has told local authority planning departments not to take health considerations into account when deciding whether to approve applications for masts.

There were 349 applications for full planning permission for masts in Birmingham between 2002 and 2006. Of these, 200 were refused by the council. Companies successfully appealed against refusal in more than 40 cases.

Comments on the draft supplementary planning guidance should be lodged with the council planning department by November 5.