Marching against masts

Angry Southside residents protested against the erection of three mobile phone masts which they claim were installed in a sports ground adjoining their homes without planning permission.

Mobile phone companies O2, Meteor and Vodafone attached the masts to flood lighting fixtures at the Iveagh Ground in Crumlin after they were leased to them by the Guinness Athletic Union (GAU) through a letting agency.

Last week, about 50 residents of the adjoining Iveagh Gardens and a number of local councillors demanded that the GAU take down the masts, as they fear the telecommunications equipment could damage their health.

The masts and substations are located within 50 metres of the 109 houses in Iveagh Gardens and within 250 metres of the nearby Ardscoil Éanna. Crumlin children’s hospital is also located some 500 metres down the road.

On April 16, 2007 the Planning Enforcement Section of Dublin City Council sent a warning letter to the mobile phone companies in relation to the alleged unauthorised erection of the telecommunications installations at Iveagh Gardens.

The council confirmed to Southside People that one of its planning enforcement officers carried out an inspection of the site on Tuesday, May 14.

“It is proposed to serve an Enforcement Notice to secure the removal of the unauthorised telecommunications installations,” the council said last week.

In a letter to a resident of Iveagh Gardens, the director of Corporate Affairs at Diageo Ireland – the parent company of Guinness - abdicated responsibility for the masts.

“Firstly, I would like to clarify that the developments in question are on…floodlights, which have been leased by the Guinness Athletic Union to the following tenants: Vodafone, O2 and Meteor and any development undertaken on these leased areas was by the above named tenants and not by Guinness Athletics Union,” he said.

However, residents were furious over this comment and have asked how the GAU or Diageo could claim they are not responsible for the masts, as the GAU have leased them to the mobile phone companies.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said: “Obviously if you lease out your lighting mast to mobile phone companies what could you expect but a mobile phone mast. Basically what they are saying is, we leased them out and after that we don’t have anything to do with it.”

Diageo also said in the letter that it had been given reassurances, within contract requirements, from “our tenants that the developments in question have been carried out under planning exemption law”.

One resident we spoke to said it was incredible to think that three mobile phone masts that were allegedly in breach of planning laws could be erected in the community.

Another resident, Alan Kelly, said: “It could destroy the young children. People have some evidence – not a lot – but it could be dangerous. I have a young family with three young children and I would like to know that they are safe and not being affected by this.”

He added: “My house is only 100 metres from the masts. People here feel betrayed; we didn’t get any information from them [the GAU] about the masts beforehand. They have to find an alternative.”

A number of other residents that Southside People spoke to said they were “angry” that the GAU had not consulted with them about the erection of the masts.

The Independent Socialist election candidate for Dublin South Central, Cllr Joan Collins, said it was a “scandal” that mobile masts could be put in residential areas and beside hospitals and schools without the need for planning permission.

“I am campaigning for Dublin City Council to change this and to specify that masts must be at least one kilometer from housing, schools and hospitals,” she said. “I urge people to get organised to have these masts shifted.”

A spokeswoman for Diageo said: “We contacted Dublin City Council and asked them to investigate in case there were any planning issues that they [Vodafone, O2, Meteor] weren’t complying with.

“They [GAU] were aware obviously when it was leased by (the letting agency) to the mobile companies that that was what they were going to use the lighting equipment for. But they were also given an undertaking through the contract that everything that would be done would comply with all planning regulations.”

A spokeswoman for Vodafone said: “Our intention would not be to upset anybody with the development of a network in any area.

“If any clarification is needed on the interpretation of the exemption and the planning guidelines, we would be more than happy to discuss this with the residents and the city council.”

//www.dublinpeople.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2607&Itemid=49

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