FURIOUS campaigners could take legal action to shift a mobile phone mast away from their homes.

Villagers in Sheriff Hutton say they will consult lawyers in a last-ditch attempt to move the controversial pole.

The announcement comes after Ryedale District Council decided it had no legal power to intervene.

Senior councillor Keith Knaggs said: "The decision not to relocate the Orange mast at Sheriff Hutton is a bitter pill to swallow for residents in the village and those councillors who fought hard to support them.

"The decision was taken because, in the opinion of a leading QC, Ryedale District Council simply does not have lawful power to do this.

"The fact that the district auditor indicated a willingness to take the council to court does not help."

But resident and anti-mast campaigner John Botting said: "We have been treated absolutely appallingly.

"We will be getting together with the parish council to make sure we understand what this means.

"We are also looking potentially to take legal action to move the mast, although whether that would be against the council or Orange we don't yet know."

Mr Botting - who lives only 65 metres from the mast - will also meet council chiefs later this month to discuss the decision.

He said: "I am devastated, not only because the decision has gone against us, but the way it has been handled."

The two-year saga began when council officials submitted their formal objections to Orange one day too late. That meant the mobile phone company was legally free to go ahead and erect the mast.

Efforts to switch it on, however, have so far failed. As reported in The Press, when engineers arrived to connect it, a tense stand-off with residents resulted in Malton Police being mobilised.

Coun Knaggs said: "The council has left no stone unturned in trying to find a way of correcting the council's initial errors.

"There should be an apology by the council, and I look forward to the council making a contribution to a community project in Sheriff Hutton, as some recompense for the extra distress caused by weak handling of this entire business."