Villiers' phone mast planning refusal wins local approval

Sun, 23/07/06

by Mary Earls

AN APPLICATION to erect a telecommunications mast on the roof of Villier’s Secondary School has been turned down by Limerick City Council recently.

Hutchison 3G Ireland Ltd had applied for planning permission to put a 5m white flagpole on the rooftop of the school with antennae last May.

However, concerned parents, school staff, nearby residents and Cllrs were outraged over the application and the possible adverse health conditions resulting from the mast’s radiation.

The main reasons cited for refusing the mast were health risks and property value.

Welcoming the decision, Pat O’Donovan, PRO with Better Environmental and Safer Telecommunications (BEST) told the Limerick Post this week that he was delighted with the "strong condemnation” of the mast from city planners."It is one of the most detailed condemnations of a mast planning application that I have come across in a long while. I am delighted that Limerick City Council was so broadminded. It was a very detailed refusal, like it wasn’t refused on weak grounds. And that is why I don’t think it will be appealed to An Bord Pleanala, especially with the strong opposition as well. They hit them very hard on the refusal,” he said.

A spokesperson from the planning department at City Hall explained that the application was turned down because the proposed mast, being on a school site and near housing, would "detract from the amenities of the area” and "depreciate the value of the residential properties”.

The mast would also be "potentially prejudicial to public health,”due to its location and proximity to residential areas, according to the planners.

And it would "materially convene” the provisions of two policies of the Limerick City Development Plan.

City planners also believed the development would set "an undesirable precedent for similar development in Limerick city and would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.

Mr O’Donovan said that this refusal also marks "a change in thinking,” as regards planning for mobile phone masts.

"Before phone masts would just be planted down without question. But now the planners are inspecting every single aspect of a planning application much more seriously. Hutchison 3G will have some neck if they do appeal this application because of the strong wording of the refusal and the level of opposition. Any level minded person wouldn’t take this further,” he said.

He said that they were also delighted that the planning department stated that it would depreciate the value of property - "as this is something that does really affect house prices in an area”.

There was also widespread condemnation over the fact that the Board of management at the school issued a letter saying that they "consented to this planning application based on research and subject to all current Health and Safety guidelines”.

And there were also reports that staff, parents and students at Villier’s School were reluctant to complain about the proposed 3G Mast, because of alleged intimidation.

Mr O’Donovan said at the time that money was the driving force behind the plan as the school would have received a windfall of thousands of euro, if the planning permission was approved.

A student at Villier’s secondary school had told the Limerick Post that many parents were considering sending solicitor’s letters to management holding them directly responsible for any adverse health effects they may suffer from the planned installation of the 3G mast on the school’s roof.

And the student, who doesn’t want to be named, said that the students had planned a protest in September if the planning is appealed to An Bord Pleanala.

Former Mayor, Cllr Michael Hourigan, who attended a public BEST meeting for people who were opposed to the mast, said that he is also delighted with the decision. And he said that he was shocked by the many negative reports of the effect of mobile phone masts on the health and well-being of people living beside them, which he heard at the meeting.

Mr O’Donovan explained that many people attending the meeting who lived in close proximity to a mast talked about the "constant headaches, fatigue, nausea and a sensation of burning in their heads”.

And he claimed that there were also higher instances of cancer and people suffering from other diseases when they lived near a mast.

BEST is continuing to hold protest marches against mobile phone masts around the country - with a recent one in Ennis attracting over 1,000 people, including many Limerick people.

In Limerick the Kilmeedy mast application is still with Limerick County Council, and both the Broadford and Carrigkerry (near Ardagh) ones have been refused by the local authority and are being appealed to An Bord Pleanala.

© Limerick Post Newspapers 2006


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