An Bord Pleanala approves phone mast despite massive local opposition

Aileen Hahesy

Aileen Hahesy

An Bord Pleanala has approved planning permission for a mobile phone mast to be erected in a Carrick-on-Suir business park despite the recommendation of the investigating planning inspector to refuse permission and the objections of eight residents groups, a school and GAA Club.

The planning appeal board’s decision to confirm the planning permission Carrick-on-Suir Town Council granted to Meteor Mobile Communications last year to build a 20m phone mast carrying three antennae and two dishes at Mill River Business Park in Carrick-on-Suir has been greeted with anger and disappointment in the town.

An Bord Pleanala reached its controversial decision on the appeal on April 29.

Residents groups representing Orchard Crescent Deerpark Close, Tannersgate, Mill Street, St John’s Terrace, Ard Mhuire and O’Mahoney Avenue and Lisadell Park had joined Orchard Crescent Residents Association in objecting to the project. Comeragh College Secondary School and Carrick Swan GAA Club and Cllr Sylvia Cooney Sheehan all lodged submissions to An Bord Pleanala objecting to the mast.

The appellants’ primary objections to the development were concerns over the possible health effects electro magnetic radiation from the mast may have on local residents and school children attending three schools located in the area. The visual impact of the mast was another key objection of the various groups.

The planning inspector who investigated the appeal case recommended to the board that permission be refused for the mast as he considered it would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area, having regard to the provisions of the Carrick-on-Suir Develoment Plan, which were considered reasonable. The Plan discourages telecommunications apparatus close to residential areas.

But following consideration of the inspector’s report and the objections, An Bord Pleanala decided that subject to compliance with the eight planning conditions it set out, it considered the proposed mast would not seriously injure the residential or visual amenities of the area or property in the vicinity and would be in accordance with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.

Ray Hallissey of Orchard Crescent Residents Association said the decision was very, very disappointing and he couldn’t understand why the appeals board went against the inspector’s recommendation.

The only avenue now open to the residents groups and others who brought the appeal was to seek a judicial review of An Bord Pleanala’s decision but this was not an option for them due to the high cost of taking such legal action.

He said the first mobile phone mast planning application Meteor Mobile submitted for Carrick-on-Suir was for a site of an old ESB sub-station on the Kilkenny Road near Carrick-on-Suir Mart. There were very few houses around this site but the application was refused. The company then applied for permission to erect the mast on a site in a business park because it was zoned industrial and it was approved despite there being hundreds of houses in the surrounding area.

Mr Hallissey believes the application was approved by the planning authorities because they felt they couldn’t refuse permission for the mast a second time.

He called on the new county manager to look at the inconsistencies in planning decisions in the county.

The only positive he saw in An Bord Pleanala’s ruling was the condition it inserted that Meteor Mobile will have to seek planning permission again for the mast in five years time.

He also expressed disappointment that more wasn’t done by the local elected council to oppose the mast application when it was first submitted. The majority of local councillors attended a public meeting they organised in relation to the mast application but in the end they received real assistance from just two councillors, Cllrs Sylvia Cooney-Sheehan and Patsy Fitzgerald.

Fianna Fail Cllr Sylvia Cooney-Sheehan, who also appealed the Town Council’s grant of permission to the mast, echoed Mr Halissey’s disappointment and described the appeal’s board’s decision as “another blow” for the town.

“If you read the inspector’s report, he agreed with the objectors that the mast was contrary to the Carrick-on-Suir Development Plan and too near residential areas. He recommended not to grant permission and the board totally ignored him.

“The reasons the Board gave for approving permission were very flimsy and didn’t in any way meet the grounds the inspector gave for overturning the permission granted for the mast.

“I am extremely disappointed. I am disappointed that the provision in the Town Development Plan designed to prevent mobile phone masts being erected in the town didn’t stand up and very disappointed that the planning authority didn’t take on board the objections to the mast.”

Principal of Comeragh College Pat Callanan said they were extremely disappointed that their public health concerns about locating the mast close to three schools were not taken on board.

“The reason we objected is that we have our senior school right across from the business park.

“Beside us is a playschool that will be extended in the future and there is a primary school just a few hundred yards away from the site.

“From my reading of the decision it looks like they just granted it anyway.

“I know the mast is to improve communications but the views of other people don’t seem to be taken into account.”