RESIDENTS are caught in the middle of a row between the council and communications giant O2 over a phone mast that was erected without planning permission.

O2 says it was entitled to put up the 15 metre mast and it will remain in Markhouse Road, Walthamstow, because it was not informed of the council's decision to refuse the application within the required 56 days.

The Guardian understands O2 received notification of the decision 24 hours late, but the council denies there was any delay and says negotiations are ongoing.

The Department for Communities and Local Government confirmed O2 is within its rights.

Residents believed they had been successful in their campaign to fight the proposal, with a petition signed by 185 people.

Officers turned the mast down under delegated powers in July last year, but just before Christmas residents were shocked to discover that it had appeared.

Tony Alveranga, 42, of nearby Samantha Close, said: "Last Friday January 12 there were some guys working on the the mast and I asked them what they thought of it. They said it was a strange place to put it - halfway across the pavement.

"Local planning officers are there to protect the interests of residents. We feel let down. We expect proper procedure to be followed.

"I would point the finger at the planning office, but assuming O2 received the letter a day late, it has been inconsiderate at least."

An O2 spokesman: "The council has 56 days to come to us with a reply and if they don't, we take that as permission being granted.

"There is no possibility that we will take the mast down. It does not obstruct the pavement."