Parents clash with Ballygunner GAA Club over Meteor mast

Thursday, March 02, 2006

By Jennifer Long

DESPITE an outcry from local residents, Ballygunner hurling club say they’re unable to pull out of a deal with telecommunications company Meteor over a mobile phone mast that’s been erected on the club’s ground - beside the local national school.

‘Signed and sealed’ is how chairman Pat O’Sullivan has described the club’s deal with Meteor which was continuing to cause ripples in the locality (yesterday) as worried parents brought their planning objections to the City Council.

The mobile phone mast has been operating on the GAA grounds for several months but a planning application - for retention was only submitted by the club at the end of January.

However, while parents of children attending Ballygunner NS were fuming yesterday, the hurling club chairman insisted there could be no going back.

“We had no idea that people would be so upset because so many of these masts are going up all over the country,” Pat O’Sullivan told the Waterford News & Star.

“In any case, we can’t go back now because the contracts are signed with Meteor.”

“This all came about after we originally got permission to erect lights on our grounds but not in the final position we had to put them in. We didn’t think we needed to do anything else and were then approached by Meteor who wanted to put in their antenna.”

“We agreed and they applied to the County Council, not realising Ballygunner was in the city area. That’s why now we had retention permission in for both the lights and the antenna.”

Pat O’Sullivan said he realised people had health concerns for their children but the mast was about 170 yards from the actual school building.

He said he was not “qualified” to give a view on whether mobile phone masts posed health dangers for children but the club had been given “assurances” by Meteor.

City councillor Mary Roche confirmed yesterday she had received many representations from concerned parents in recent days and was going to be asking questions of the city’s planning office.

“ I need to have a proper look at planning regulations and see what’s permissible,” she said. “For one thing the application is for retention which is far from ideal but also in the wording of application, the reference to the mast is almost hidden.”

Meanwhile, the parent of a nine-year-old attending Ballygunner NS has told the Water-ford News & Star that she is one of many parents now very worried.

“People only really became aware of this in recent days because it didn’t follow the normal planning process,” said Ann Marie Jackman, who lives in Knockboy.

“There is clear research to show that children are at risk of radiation from these masts. In fact because radiation is emitted laterally there would actually be less of a risk if this antenna was put on top of the school roof than where it is now,” she said, adding she was one of several parents who had submitted official objections by yesterday’s deadline.

Last November the Office of Public Works effectively ordered a freeze on the erection of mobile phone masts near schools until a special committee examined the health risks.

Ballygunner Hurling Club say the mast on their lands has been in place going back to last year. A decision is due from Waterford City Council on March 21.

© Waterford News & Star, 2006.


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