Council approves disputed phone mast in south Dublin

[February 12, 2006]

(The Irish Times Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)A controversial mobile phone mast being built on a Garda station in south Dublin is within planning regulations, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council said yesterday.

Vilicom, appointed to oversee the erection of telecommunication masts on State buildings, had begun building a replacement mast on Shankill Garda station to facilitate three mobile phone companies. A licence was given for the development from the Office of Public Works as part of its Transforming State Assets Programme. Residents opposed it.

Vilicom did not apply for planning permission, believing the work was exempt development under planning regulations. The council asked the OPW to stop all work on the mast until it ascertained whether it required planning permission.

The mast can hold up to 12 mobile phone antennae. Yesterday the council examined the mast and informed Vilicom it was satisfied that "planning legislation is being adhered to".

Three schools and two residential developments are within 500m of the mast, and residents had protested against its construction. Locals held a protest at the station yesterday to try to prevent the development from going ahead.

Eammon Keogh, spokesman for the Dorney Court Residents' Action Group, said there had been no consultation with the local community.

"Residents are furious that this is being done at a time when major question marks exist about these towers and their link to increased incidents of cancer and motor neurone disease," he said.

An OPW spokesman said the works were similar to those already undertaken at several other Garda stations throughout the State.

Green Party deputy Ciaran Cuffe called on the Minister for the Environment to close the loophole in the planning regulations which allowed such masts to be built without public consultation.

"The planning regulations are riddled with loopholes in this area. The regulations allow for a mast to be replaced, and for up to 12 additional antennae to be placed on it without public consultation," he said.

"This is not acceptable and I have tabled a question in the Dail to the Minister for the Environment asking him whether he intends to revise Class 31 of the 2001 Planning and Development Regulations to allow for public consultation through a formal planning process if additional telecommunications antennae are proposed to be placed on a mast."

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