BJD Eir mast refused by An Bord Pleanála

Eir has been refused permission for an 18-metre high telecommunications support structure to be erected near the centre of Ballyjamesduff.

Permission was previously granted by An Bord Pleanála in the name of former An Bord Pleanála deputy chairman Paul Hyde. But Mr Hyde, who stepped down from his role at the authority in May 2022, and resigned the following July amid allegations of alleged conflicts of interest, saw that decision quashed by the High Court last December.

Mr Hyde (50) has denied any wrongdoing at all times, however he remains one of a number of senior ABP officials linked to an investigation.

A fresh planning appeal was submitted by Eir (Eircom Limited) to An Bord Pleanála (ABP) in January regarding its plans to put the mast onto the Eir Exchange, off Granard Street, in the townland of Moodoge, Ballyjamesduff.

The proposed 18-metre high telecommunications structure, if granted, would have been fitted with antennas and dishes, all enclosed within security fencing.

Planners at Cavan County Council refused the development as the site was zoned ‘existing residential’ in the Cavan Development Plan 2014-2020.

It was further noted the proposed structure would become a “prominent feature” on Granard Street, and as a result have a “negative visual impact” on the overall streetscape and townscape.

Inspector Elaine Sullivan was tasked with examining the council’s refusal on its appeal to ABP.

Eir argued that Ballyjamesduff is a known coverage weak spot for 4G.

Three other locations were considered - Lisdonnish, at Ballyjamesduff Water Treatment Plant, and Ramonan on the Granard Road. All of these currently house telecommunications infrastructure, however were discounted as either “too far away to improve the service” or for other “geographical constraints”.

Ms Sullivan completed her report in early December 2021, upholding the council’s decision, and recommending the Bord do likewise.

“It is my view that the proposed monopole would visually dominate the town centre and surrounding streetscape by virtue of its nature and scale. This would have a detrimental impact on the character of the historic market town and would be an inappropriate form of development,” filed Ms Sullivan.

Despite her recommendation ABP still decided to grant permission.

The decision, dated November 25, 2021, was signed off by ABP’s former deputy chairman, Mr Hyde, who said the “proposed development was located in a highly suitable and appropriate location for the purposes of providing 4G coverage in the area".

His decision was subsequently quashed by Order of the High Court.

Elaine Sullivan resubmitted her opinion as part of the ABP’s latest assessment of its previous decision.

“I confirm that this report represents my professional planning assessment, judgement and opinion on the matter assigned to me and that no person has influenced or sought to influence, directly or indirectly, the exercise of my professional judgement in an improper or inappropriate way,” she stated in the document, signed off March 27, 2023.

Una Crosse, a member of ABP, stamped and dated April 12 the order refusing permission.

It adds that having regard to the number and configuration of existing poles on the site and the scale and location of the proposed development, there was an “absence of evidence” as to consideration given to consolidate or amalgamate the existing infrastructure within the site.

“It is considered that the cumulative impact of the existing structures and proposed development would have an overbearing impact and give rise to adverse visual effects on the adjoining residential properties. The development would detract from the existing residential amenity of the adjacent resident property and would, therefore, be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area,” read the decision.

The Eir application in respect of Ballyjamesduff was one of several such applications turned down by the council in a period of around 12 months - others being in Arvagh and Kingscourt.