LIBERAL Democrats in Gateshead have attacked Labour for siding with phone company giants rather than local residents in a row over the power of communities to stop inappropriately sited phone masts.
At present phone masts up to 15 metres in height don’t need full planning permission, often making it difficult for councils to refuse permission for controversial proposals.
Liberal Democrat MPs in Parliament recently moved an amendment to the Planning Bill. It aimed to tightened up the rules and make phone companies get full planning permission for their masts.
This would have meant that they would be considered in the same way as applications for new buildings or change of use of existing ones.
But Labour MPs voted against this and most Conservative MPs did not bother voting at all. The proposal was therefore thrown out.
“Gateshead’s MPs had the opportunity to side with local communities or with giant phone companies,” said Lib Dem Councillor Frank Hindle. “It is extremely disappointing so see that they decided to back big business.
“Lots of us use mobile phones, but that is no reason why the phone companies shouldn’t have to apply for planning permission in the same way that every other business has to.
“This change would have encouraged companies to do more to share masts and to site them better, so that residents didn’t have to put up with so many masts - but Labour seem more interested in phone companies than with what local people want.”