Friday 30 May 2008

Stradbally campaign pays off as mast is turned down

"WITH a bit of luck they won't come back," was Una Lalor's wish when she spoke about the decision of An Bord Pleanála (ABP) to refuse planning permission to Eircom to erect a 25m mast at their exchange at The Mill, Chapel Lane in Stradbally.

The decision has been welcomed in Stradbally.

Local people met on Monday evening to discuss the decision and were guarded in their welcome.

Secretary of the Mast Appeal Group Dominic Hartnett, while glowing in his praise for the support from the people of the town in rejecting the mast, urged caution, telling people Eircom still had an opportunity to go to the courts in an attempt to challenge the decision made last week by An Bord Pleanála.

He said it had cost the community approximately 5,000 to lodge their objections to the mast which he said would have been located just five-meters from a residential area.

He said funding to support their campaign had come from the Stradbally Tidy Town's Group, the Stradbally Electric Picnic Committee and the Stradbally Community Development Association.

Mr Hartnett said the local campaign had attracted over 310 objections from all areas of the town.

The campaign's slogan was ‘Spot the Difference.' Mr Hartnett said the reason that was used was in 1998 Laois County Council had refused a planning application to Eircom which was similar to the recent one it had granted planning permission for.

"Our committee had developed our campaign around the poster showing the mast in 1998 and in 2007 and asked both Laois Co Council and An Bord Pleanála to ‘Spot the Difference'.

"We went back to the old records and showed that both Laois County Council and An Board Pleanála had refused the siting of a mast in the town, and now the new application wanted to move the mast closer into the town and beside a new local social housing scheme that was developed by Laois Co Council."

Seamus Lalor said he was delighted with the outcome and delighted so much support was shown to the campaign by people of the town.

Gerry Kelly said: "I'd like to thank ABP for having a bit of sense to put this down. The committee worked very hard on this for over five months."

Mr Hartnett described the funding spent on the community's "as a complete waste of money" and said it could and should have been used in developing the community.

"The spending of much needed community funding as a result of the planning department in the county granting permission, the same department who had refused the siting of a mast in the town in 1998 will now be looked at, and we will hope that the county manager will give us the same time and a meeting as he gave to the applicant when they first came looking for permission."

In assessing the approach taken by the community in their appeal Mr Hartnett said: "We didn't go out shouting and roaring. We kept focused on the issue and worked within the planning appeal guidelines set out. It was a totally focused campaign that paid off."

Joe Barrett
Laois Nationalist

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