Anger as residents voice dismay at mast permission

By Pamela Duncan

RESIDENTS in the Monaleen/Castletroy/Annacotty area have described as "unbelievable”, Limerick County Council’s decision to grant planning retention for a telecommunications mast on the grounds of Aisling Annacotty FC.

Meteor Mobile Communications were granted retention for a 10 metre floodlight monopole support structure with attached radio antennae and telecommunications dishes, on an already existing floodlight on May 22.

Residents argue that the mast would be erected in a residential area and in the vicinity of a creche and a secondary school, as well as being sited on a sports ground utilised by children. They have cited health fears as their main concern and noted that reports, such as the Stewart report in England, suggested that mobile phone radiation could be hazardous to health and that children were more susceptible to this risk.

Locals say government regulations indicate that operators should endeavour to locate in industrial estates or in industrially zoned lands.

"The Aisling Annacotty playing pitch is zoned as recreational and educational site under the existing Limerick County Council guidelines. National guidelines also state that such structures should not be erected near crèches or schools,” one local resident, who did not wish to be named, told the Limerick Post.

However, senior planner for Limerick County Council, Gerry Sheeran, says that these guidelines date back to 1996, while a report commissioned by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources just two months ago, stated: "There is no scientific basis for, or evidence of adverse health affects effecting either children or adults as a result of their exposure to RF (radio frequencies) from phone masts”.

But the decision by Limerick County Council to grant permission is sure to further rile residents because the council actually issued an enforcement order against Meteor in July last year, to remove the mast. The matter was subsequently brought to the courts but was later adjourned so that the planning procedure could take its course.

However, Limerick County Council have now say that because Meteor attached the antenna to an already existing floodlight, that they are, in turn, exempt from planning.

For successful Dail candidate, Kieran O’Donnell, the timing of the council’s decision proved somewhat of an embarrassment as he had assured residents that permission would be denied.

He said he greeted the council’s decision with "disbelief and amazement”, and described the erection of a mast "in the middle of a recreational amenity surrounded by residential houses”, as "completely inappropriate”.

He added that the planning permission was inconsistent with similar applications, such as that in Bilboa, Cappamore, for which planning permission was denied, in late 2006.

He said that permission for the mast should have been denied on a number of points, including the visual impact and the potential affect on house prices in the area. He added that there are a number of telecommunications masts circling that area to which the service provider could have relocated.

"I firmly believe that there is more than adequate cover for all service providers in the area and that this is as much about Meteor securing somewhere that they can charge other operators for co-location,” O’Donnell concluded.

Objections to the mast were submitted by Minister Willie O’Dea and Michael Noonan, Castletroy College, and residents of Castlemara, Riverbank and Newtown Park, amongst others.

An appeal is expected to be lodged with an Bord Pleanala.

© Limerick Post Newspapers 2006



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