A CONTROVERSIAL phone mast erected following a legal blunder is set to stay, to the fury of local residents.

A town hall inquiry into the mistake has concluded there is little chance of forcing Vodafone to take down the mast at Fisherman's Walk or submit a new planning application.

And cabinet members have now agreed not to pursue the matter through the courts.

The mast, which is situated on the corner of Wentworth Avenue and Fishermans Avenue in Southbourne, was originally turned down by planning officers.

But the decision notice sent to Vodafone was incorrectly worded, allowing the phone company to go ahead and put the mast up anyway.

Deputy leader Cllr Adrian Fudge said: "After efforts to identify alternative sites and gain the co-operation of the mobile phone operator in relocating the Fisherman's Walk mast proved unsuccessful, we sought legal advice on options available to us through the courts.

"Regrettably, having investigated every avenue, counsel's advice is that we would be unlikely to succeed in such legal action.

"Cabinet considered the conclusions of the planning board and have agreed that no legal action be taken."

He added they would continue to negotiate with mobile phone operators on future applications, encouraging them to site masts sensitively and consult with residents.

But Portman Crescent resident Charmaine Despres said she was "totally devastated" by the decision.

"As far as I'm concerned, this gives out the message the council has little or no power to correct their own errors," she said. "I don't blame the operator at all. They have gone completely by the book. This is the council's fault."

"I don't believe the council has made any effort to identify any alternative sites. Vodafone have told me that the only suggestions made to them came from me."

And Jane Frapwell, spokes-person for Vodafone, defended the company's actions.

"The mast is operational and providing a service for local people. Our position always was that we had the legal right to install it," she said."We took our own advice with regards to this installation and we do appreciate local views.

"The problem for us is getting the balance between providing a service for people and keeping visual impact to a minimum and we feel that we've done that in this case."

The cabinet's decision will be discussed by full council next Tuesday.