New Mast Angers Residents


15 residents are up in arms over new plans to erect a mast in the vicinity of Hartstown National School. Fingal County Council has been informed of the proposal to erect the mast at a local petrol station. The plan has enraged locals who last year campaigned against another mast which was erected close to Huntstown National School. Speaking on behalf of residents, Cllr Ruth Coppinger (SP) expressed anger over the new mast. “This is a scandal,” she declared. “Microwave radiation from masts is known to be especially dangerous to children.” While telecommunications companies say there's no evidence to link masts with health issues, opponents point out there isn't any conclusive proof that they don't. Cllr Coppinger said Government guidelines on masts have left councils effectively powerless to regulate and reject plans for mobile phone antenna. Last year elected members of Fingal County Council unanimously agreed that an area of 200 metres radius of schools should be kept free from the erection of any masts.

However, Department of Environment guidelines state that masts may be erected beside schools and in residential areas as a last resort. Cllr Coppinger said telecommunication companies are taking advantage of this exception. “This law has led to the proliferation of mobile phone masts with companies not even having to attempt to share sites with competitor companies,” she said. “If these masts had to go through the normal planning process they would fail but because the antennae are part of the Government's 'exempted development' legislation, the normal rules don't apply. “Until the health effects are fully clear, no masts should be near schools, crèches, community or sports centres.” A local Hartstown resident echoed Cllr Copppinger's concerns. Jacinta Nolan fears for the elderly in the vicinity and school children in Hartstown's St Ciaran's National School. “I'm very much opposed to the mast,” she said. “It will only be within yards of the school and the little children. “People aren't even allowed to smoke in petrol stations or use a mobile, yet they are allowed to put this mast on the top of the building. It's crazy. “Hartstown residents will not be prepared to put up with these masts and we will do anything in our power to stop it going ahead.” Meanwhile, Councillor Felix Gallagher (SF) described the decision to allow mobile phone antennae at Huntstown shops as an attack on local democracy and the health of the local community. “Earlier this month I got confirmation that An Bord Pleanála had upheld my objection to an O2 mast at this site,” he said. “This decision was greeted with great relief by local residents and parents of local school children. “However, it has now been decided to place these antennae on the side wall of the building rather than the roof.” It's understood the Huntstown antennae is now covered by 'exempted development' rules. Department of Environment and Heritage guidelines for suitable antennae locations state: “Only as a last resort and if all alternatives are either unavailable or unsuitable should free-standing masts be located in a residential area or beside schools.” The guidelines also specify the type of structure that should be erected. “It should be kept at a minimum height consistent with effective operation and should be monopole (or poles) rather than a tripod.” A spokesperson for Fingal County Council's planning department responded to our query regarding masts in the county. “The council will only take enforcement against unauthorised development in regards planning,” she said. The spokesperson confirmed that most mobile masts fall outside the council's control as they do not need planning permission. “Although we do have a development plan, this only applies to masts that need planning.”


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