RESIDENTS could be in line for a compensation payout after a council blunder led to a phone mast being erected close to their homes.

Despite initial denials, the council has admitted it missed a deadline to refuse mobile phone giant O2 permission to put up the mast in Markhouse Road, Walthamstow.

Epping Forest Council recently paid a total of £2,500 to ten residents in Waltham Abbey when it made the same mistake, but larger amounts have been awarded elsewhere.

In 2003 the Local Government Ombudsman ordered Swindon Council to pay seven families between £10,000 and £20,000 to compensate them for the decrease in value of their homes when an administration error meant a mast was installed nearby.

O2 was within its rights to erect the 15 foot mast in Markhouse Road and insist it will not be taken down.

A letter from the council apologising to residents has been delayed, suggesting the council is treading carefully with the possibility of legal action and a costly payout looming.

Residents were shocked when the mast appeared overnight just before Christmas and initially planned to seek an injunction preventing it being switched on. The plan was ditched, however, when it emerged there was no time to pursue the action.

Tony Alvaranga, 42, who can see the mast from his home in Samantha Close, said: "There was a commitment by the planning office to write to residents who had objected to the mast application - that commitment has not been met.

"I believe a first letter was withdrawn at the eleventh hour and another one was going to be sent, but until Monday we had not received it.

A council spokesman confirmed a letter of apology will be sent to residents and said the authority was currently assessing the implications of its mistake.