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July 9, 2008 12:00 AM

The Liberal Democrats have launched a stinging attack on Newcastle North MP Doug Henderson for siding with phone company giants rather than residents in a row over the power of communities to stop inappropriately sited phone masts.

Currently, fewer restrictions govern planning applications for phone masts up to 15 metres in height, often making it difficult for councils to refuse permission for controversial proposals.

Liberal Democrats in Parliament recently moved an amendment to the Planning Bill which would have meant applications for phone masts would have required full planning permission and therefore be considered in the same way as applications for new buildings or change of use of existing ones.

But Labour MPs, including Doug Henderson voted against the call and Conservative MPs did not bother voting at all.

"Doug Henderson had the opportunity to side with local communities or with giant phone companies," said Newcastle North Parliamentary spokesman Ron Beadle.

"It is extremely disappointing so see that he decided to back the latter.

"The change the Liberal Democrats proposed in the House of Commons would have given residents a fighting chance to stop inappropriately sited phone masts.

"It would have meant the phone companies would have had to apply for full planning permission in the same way that any other business would need to."