Council planners refuse permission for Ballyhaise mast

Council planners have rejected a planning application to install a 21-metre tall telecommunications structure intended to carry antenna and dishes in the village of Ballyhaise.

The decision to knock back the development proposal, submitted by Dublin-based On Tower Ireland Limited, which is involved in building telecommunications infrastructure across Ireland, was delivered last Monday, December 18.

On Tower wanted to install the structure and enclose it within a 2.4 metre-high palisade fenced compound, together with associated ground equipment cabinets and site works, at Townparks, Ballyhaise.

It first applied for permission back in October.

In response, the council’s planning section received more that 40 individual submissions, some of them outright objections, to the proposed mast.

On Tower, in its submission, set out the “technical justification” for the proposed installation.

It claimed the structure was “required to provide 3G/4G/5G data service provision in Ballyhaise and enhance coverage in the surrounding area. The installation forms part of an integrated telecommunications network system, which has been meticulously planned out to provide best possible network performance within the limitations encountered in this rural environment”.

On Tower said the addition of the base station would have an “immediate and positive impact” on Three’s network provision in the wider area.

“By not deploying a suitable site, a coverage blackspot, particularly 4G, for users in the areas will remain,” stated the company, adding that Three Ireland has a policy to co-locate into existing telecommunications structure “where possible”.

In its submission to the local authority on the plans, Ballyhaise Community Centre said the proposed mast would be sited within 292 metres of St Mary’s Church, a protected structure, and would be “very visible, commanding and obstructive”.

The location is 124 metres also from the nearest dwelling, the letter said; 130 metres from the nearest farmyard; and 477 metres from St Mary’s National School.

Citing potential health risks from exposure to radio frequency radiation, the submission continued: “It is my belief that this proposed mast is located much too close to all of these dwellings and public amenities and that the application should be refused in the interest of public health and safety.”

The submission further stated there was no Environmental Impact Statement carried out and pointed out that an 18-metre telecommunications mast already exists some 797 metres from the proposed new structure site.

In refusing permission, council planners deemed the proposed development was contrary to the County Development Plan.

“Having regard to the prominent location of the proposed development adjacent to the built-up area of Ballyhaise and the high visibility of the proposed development from the approach roads to Ballyhaise from Cavan Town, which includes the view from the protected structure of St Mary’s Church, it is considered that the proposed development would have an adverse visual

impact on amenity of the surrounding area which includes the setting of a

Protected Structure. The proposed development would therefore contravene

Objective ICT 05 of the Cavan County Development Plan 2022 – 2028 which

is to ensure the locations of telecommunications structures minimise and/or

mitigate any adverse impacts on communities, public rights of way and the

built or natural environment. The proposed development is therefore

considered to be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development

of the area.

They consider that the development, if green-lighted, would have had an “adverse visual impact”, and added that as a result it would therefore “contravene” objectives set out in the County Development Plan aimed towards mitigating against the impact of telecommunication structures on surrounding landscapes.

The matter of the proposed mast was raised for discussion by Fianna Fáil’s Clifford Kelly at the December monthly meeting of Cavan County Council.

Though it was accepted the executive couldn’t intervene in planning matters, Cllr Kelly said he, like others, had received representations from members of the public expressing concern over the proposed build.

He said there had been a “similar problem” in Kingscourt. “We can see the effect of it every day of the week.”

In the case of Kingscourt, plans for the mast were refused by the council but the decision overturned on appeal to An Bord Pleanala.

“It’s disgraceful what’s going on in the country with masts,” he said.

Fellow party colleague Patricia Walsh supported the position.

“They seem to appear overnight,” she said of masts in the county.

Fine Gael’s Val Smith and Independent Brendan Fay offered support for the stance taken by the community in Ballyhaise.