Monday 16 November 2009

Council to be lobbied on mast debate

GROUPS from different parts of Kerry will today lobby councillors in advance of a debate on a controversial rule about telecommunications masts in the county development plan.

The council bans the erection of masts within one kilometre of houses, schools and other residential buildings. The ruling is due to be reconsidered at the meeting of Kerry County Council.

Some community bodies are strongly opposed to a move by county manager Tom Curran and other senior executives to have the rule removed.

Council officials claim the restriction was affecting the roll-out of broadband throughout the county and the provision of modern communications for the emergency services.

And despite the council continuing to refuse planning for masts because of the bylaw, An Bord Pleanála regularly overturns council decisions and grants planning permission for masts.

So far, councillors have supported the retention of the rule and are coming under increasing pressure from groups of objectors to maintain that line.

A spokesperson for the groups said they would be seeking the continuing support of elected councillors and were getting a petition signed by people throughout Kerry.

The Glenbeigh area is a hotbed of protests against masts with objections, to about five mast proposals. Their anger was highlighted by the public burning of a mock mast by local people.

One of the leading Glenbeigh objectors, Clara Leahy, said locals are concerned at the effects of exposure to electromagnetic radiation from communications masts and felt their concerns are being ignored.

The council again applied the one kilometre rule to refuse the application to the latest application. An appeal has been lodged with An Bord Pleanála.

But council management wants the rule removed from the county development plan which has been in place since 2003.

"This provision is a very crude instrument as it takes any deciding role from the planners on any application for a mast once it is clear that the restriction applies to such an application," said a report from the executive.

Since 2003, the council has received 75 applications for masts. Of these, 38 have been refused planning permission and 25 of the refusals have subsequently been overturned by An Bord Pleanála.

Meanwhile, the Tetra communications company is seeking an alternative site for a 15-metre mast in Annascaul.

Following a campaign by residents of the village, work was halted on a site that had been chosen for the mast. The company is now seeking an alternative site, a distance from the village. An Bord Pleanála, however, granted planning for the mast after an appeal against a refusal by the council.

Irish Examiner

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