LEITRIM COUNTY Council is to hold a special meeting today to consider whether to mount a legal challenge to An Bord Pleanála’s decision to give the go-ahead to two broadband masts in the county. Local residents are furious at the decisions in relation to the masts at Aughacashel and Carrigallen, which they say are in breach of the county development plan.
This prohibits the construction of such telecommunications structures within 500m of residential dwellings. Amid widespread local concerns about the health implications, the company involved, 3G Ireland, said that “even the World Health Organisation” had accepted there were no health risks.
Brian Purcell, a spokesman for the company, said it was working on behalf of the Government, having won a tender in December 2008, to bring broadband to rural areas.
“This is the most enabling technology since rural electrification,” said Mr Purcell. He said people operating small businesses in local areas were demanding a service that people in cities had taken for granted for some time.
“This will allow people to operate businesses and rear their children in rural areas. It will allow them to do things others take for granted, such as online banking or booking their Ryanair tickets,” he said.
But locals said there are already six masts in the Aughacashel area providing mobile and broadband services and that “only a handful” would benefit from the new structure.
Cllr Francis Gilmartin (Fianna Fáil), like most of his colleagues, is angry at the board’s decision to overturn the county council’s refusal of planning permission.
“I have asked the company to give me a guarantee in writing that there will be no health effects and of course they won’t do that,” he said. “Leitrim is riddled with cancer and there is no point in 20 years telling us that these things were not safe.”
Today’s meeting has been called to discuss whether the local authority should seek a judicial review of the two board decisions.
More than 90 local people objected to the Aughacashel mast, which they say is within 500m of four dwelling houses and within 300m of a group water scheme.
“Leitrim County Council has no money and I don’t know where we will find €100,000 to fight this case,” Mr Gilmartin said. But he said councillors and local people felt strongly that there was no point in working hard to draw up a county development plan, “if it can be ignored by faceless people in An Bord Pleanála”.