MOBILE phone giant Vodafone has sparked outrage among villagers by using a legal loophole to erect a mast without planning permission.
The transmitter was installed on land off Clay Lane at Haslington days after residents lodged their objections with Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council as part of the planning application procedure.
But although the telecommunications conglomerate has caused uproar by pushing ahead without consent, the council's hands are tied with red tape.
Enforcement officer Craig Wilshaw explained: 'Technically this action is not illegal under the terms of planning law. Until we look at the application and decide whether or not the site is suitable, we cannot advise the council to issue an enforcement order making Vodafone take the mast down.'
Mr Wilshaw said that the right of appeal against an enforcement order means Vodafone could legally leave the mast for 12 months or more.
He also felt that mobile phone companies were exploiting this area in the law because councils were so reluctant to grant permission for masts.
He said: 'Because the public are so dead against mobile transmitters on their doorsteps, councils do not want to stick their neck out and risk voters getting angry.
'But phone companies have their business needs. They nearly always appeal against refused permits and this has created a massive backlog in applications.
'A lot of companies do not want to wait for a decision so they put up masts anyway which are at least operational while the process is ongoing.'
But Clay Lane resident Michael Taylor, 70, feels it is a case of one law for them and one for the rest of us.
He said: 'It seems as if these big companies are allowed to walk all over everyone else. We put in our objections in the correct manner and they just ignore due procedure.
'We are only a small community and most residents have put in objections to the mast. We already have one so we certainly didn't want another.
'Some of us talked about ripping the thing down but we do not want to do anything illegal. If we did no doubt we would be the ones punished.
Vodafone had applied to raise an existing mast owned by O2 to allow them to share. But delays have forced Vodafone to act to fill a hole in coverage.
Spokeswoman Jane Frapwell said: 'Concerns about the visual impact of raising the existing mast on Clay Lane have resulted in a gap in our network coverage.
'In these circumstances our policy is to erect a temporary mast and then apply for permission to leave it standing for six months while we work towards a permanent solution. We are keeping the local authorities fully informed.'