A CALL for councils to be allowed to decide on new mobile phone masts has come from Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans.

Mr Evans told Cabinet Minister Margaret Beckett such a move was vital to protect the health of children and the countryside.

He and other MPs are alarmed by how frequently council refusals of masts are overturned on appeal by planning inspectors.

He raised the issue in the House of Commons after concern about plans to site three masts in Ribchester, Clayton-le-Dale and just outside Longridge, where there are already masts.

He told Mrs Beckett that there was "Much concern about the erection of telecommunication masts and related environmental and health problems.

"In my constituency, there are three applications. It is a rural constituency and we don't want to turn the Ribble Valley, or the countryside of the rest of England and Wales, into a giant Meccano set.

"Is it possible for a minister to advise of changes that may be made to ensure more power is given to local authorities to determine where masts are erected?"

Mrs Beckett said she was aware of concern in all parties and said she would pass his concerns on to Deputy Prime Minister and Environment Minister John Prescott.