Eir appeal planning refusal for Ballyjamesduff mast

Mobile provider Eir has appealed the refusal by Cavan County Council to grant planning for construction of a new telecommunications mast in Ballyjamesduff.

The now twice refused proposal was last turned down by Cavan planners in September, with Eir (Eircom Limited) formally lodging their appeal to that decision with An Bord Pleanála last month.

The proposed works would have involved the construction of telecommunications infrastructure comprised of an 18 metre high monopole (overall height of 19.5m), together with the attachment of antennas, dishes and associated equipment.

New ground level equipment cabinets, fencing, landscaping would also be installed at the Eir Exchange site at Granard Street Ballyjamesduff, along with the the removal of two existing wooden support poles and all associated sites works.

It is a similar application to that which local planners refused back in 2021, successfully appealed to An Bord Pleanála (ABP), only for that decision to be refused by the planning authority after it was revisited on foot of a decision in the High Court.

The permission granted was signed off by former ABP deputy chairman Paul Hyde who stepped down from his role in May 2022 and then resigned the following July amid allegations of potential conflicts of interest not declared.

The latest Eir appeal is due to be decided by the end of February 2024, but could be much later given the backlog of appeal cases that exists.

Eir's latest application was received by the planning section of Cavan County Council in August, with a refusal notice issued the following month.

There were more than 70 submissions made by those concerned by the impact the proposed telecommunication monopole would have. Among those who lodged objections were residents, local businesses, and various organisations from Ballyjamesduff Community Council to BJD Bowling Club.

There was also a submission made by Dun Laoghaire-based organisation named Electromagnetic Sense Ireland, an environmental non-governmental organisation comprised of concerned citizens many of whom suffer from sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation and campaign for the responsible deployment of telecommunication technology.

In support, industry rival Vodafone submitted two separate letters to the council's planning section, the first offering support for the development, and the second outlining its justification.

In their letters Vodafone stated that the company is currently in the process of expanding and upgrading its network infrastructure in a bid to “improve the capacity and connectivity” to meet the customer demands for wireless technology.

“Current coverage in Ballyjamesduff, and the surrounding area is negatively impacted by the landscape which significantly affects the delivery of reliable voice and data services to this area,” said Vodafone, who expect to enter into agreement to co-locate equipment onto the new structure if permitted and built.

“This installation will significantly improve coverage and enhance the provision of new 4G and 5G services to the local area and is in keeping with local and national objectives of sharing infrastructure.”

Currently Ballyjamesduff is covered by masts located at the Lattoon Waterworks and at Ramonan, but these sites are outside the town. They serve a large area stretching to Carricknamaddoo and Grousehall, including a section of the N3 to the North, Gallonnabraher and Carrickavee to the east, Gallonreagh and Cornamucklagh to the south, and Curraghabreedn and Drumscruddan to the west.

Vodafone say the new mast will allow it to enhance the existing service to the town and the R194 and R196 regional roads by offloading customer “traffic” the two existing sites to allow them “better serve” the surrounding rural area.

“The Exchange site provides dedicated capacity to 1,476 people who will experience enhanced 4G data services as well as future 5G services.”

However, and as before, council planning inspectors considered that by “virtue of its scale, height and location” the new proposed mast would result in a “significant negative impact on the character and setting” of Ballyjamesduff town centre.

Regarding zoning, it was considered notwithstanding that telecommunication uses are permitted in principle at the location, that the proposed development would also have an “adverse impact” on adjoining residential amenities.

Thus the inspectors concluded it would run contrary to specific objectives as outlined in the County Development Plan 2022-2028 and would “therefore be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.