Concerns have been voiced over plans to make Barnoldswick the North of England’s first “wi-fi town”.

Residents believe the proposed web portal to make the wi-fi wireless network possible could have health implications.

And they are backed by experts, who say those exposed to electromagnetic fields could experience symptoms including memory problems or nausea.

Last week, the West Craven Area Committee allocated £10,000 for the scheme, which is expected to cost a total of £30,000.

The scheme is the brainchild of Barnoldswick town councillor Martin Bell. It has yet to be approved by the town council, although a sub-committee has been set up to investigate it.

Coun Glenn Whittaker, who serves on both the town council and West Craven Committee, said: “I don’t see how you can allocate £10,000 to a scheme that isn’t clear-cut and has yet to be agreed by Barnoldswick Town Council.

“A sub-committee including Councillors Martin Bell, Allan Buck and Keith Bailey is supposed to report back to the full town council.”

If the Wi-Fi scheme is implemented, residents within a 12-mile radius will be able to access the town’s web portal via their laptop.

While locations in Chile, Italy, South Africa and the USA have set up Wi-Fi networks, Glastonbury is currently the only UK town to do so. However. following the end of a six-month trial in the Somerset town, residents have submitted a 400-name petition against the scheme.

Now people in Barnoldswick have raised concerns about the proposal.

Town councillor Jenny Purcell said: “Not enough long-term research has been done on it yet and there are worries it could cause cancer. I’m dead against it because I don’t want to be putting people’s lives at risk.”

Resident Andy Blackburn, of Esp Lane, Barnoldswick, said he used to live near a mobile phone base station at Park Hill, but became “unnerved” by it and moved.

“In the absence of any proof either way, it’s very frustrating that they’re going on,” he said. “Debates about new technologies often seem skewed in favour of providing a service.”

According to experts, someone using a Wi-Fi enabled laptop will be exposed to around twice the level of radio frequency electromagnetic fields as someone living 60 to 70 metres away from a mobile phone base station.

Spokesman Graham Philips, from independent organisation Powerwatch, which plays a central role in the UK electromagnetic field and microwave radiation debate, said: “The exposure from Wi-Fi, unlike TV and non-digital radio transmitters, is very similar to base station exposure. Symptoms found in those living around base stations include concentration or memory problems, sleep disturbance, dizziness, nausea and other adverse neurological end points.

“Considering current evidence, the public should not be subjected to city-wide exposures without the health of the local population being carefully monitored before, during and after roll-out.”

However, Barnoldswick town councillor Coun David Whipp said: “Wi-Fi systems are commonplace throughout the country. They work on a much weaker signal than mobile phones. Funding has now been put in place for this initiative. I think some people object to things just for the sake of objecting.”