Image of the rear of the Eir Exchange on Abbey Street (red brick) from nearby Bridge Street.

Eir gets planning for controversial Cavan mast

An Bord Pleanala has overturned Cavan County Council's objection to Eir erecting a 21 metre high monopole at the heart of Cavan Town, towering over the Abbeylands area which is set to be regenerated as a bustling civic and amenity space.

Millions of euro will be pumped into redeveloping the lands corralled by Townhall Street, Main Street, Bridge Street and at Abbey Street where the Eir Exchange is situated and the mast is destined to be located within a car park to the rear of the property.

Council planners refused permission back in May 2023, but Eir appealed that decision the following month.

There is an existing 6.5-metre-high mast on the rooftop of the two-storey Exchange building, and Eir reduced the height of the proposed monopole to 21 metres in their appeal submission.

The council had argued against the development based on its “prominent location” within the town core, the number of protected structures nearby, and its proximity to architectural conservation areas (ACAs)- Bridge Street and Farnham Street. The refusal took into account the visual impact information from eight vantage points, which considered it “will have a significant impact on the built environment” if allowed. The council further stated the proposed mast would have an “adverse impact on the setting and character” of the council's Abbeyland plans given both its “height and design”.

As such, to allow the development go ahead was considered contrary to “proper planning”.

No pre-application discussions took place with Eir on the proposed mast, and no submissions were received in response to the public notices published.

Eir was previously refused planning for a 24 metre high tower together with antennas, dishes and associated telecommunications equipment back in 2012- again based on the prominent location of the site and potential visual impact on the surrounding area.

In its proposal, Eir stated the new mast would provide critical infrastructure and services for Cavan Town. “The proposal will enable representation by the service operators to provide modern services to one of the most important towns and populated areas within Cavan County.”

It was noted there are two masts in the town- at the Garda Station and at Gallow's Hill. Vodafone also transmits from the Eir Exchange, and the new development was required to improve 5G coverage into the future.

Eir noted the new mast would fit with the Abbeylands' modernisation, where it will create a “shift in demand for communications”. They added that the “dense nature” of buildings and the narrow streets will also obstruct views of the monopole structure.

Notwithstanding the reduction in height, the council countered the proposed telecommunications structure would still be “visually intrusive” and their reason for refusal remained “valid”.

ABP's inspector Richard Taylor visited the area in October 2023. He said there was a “key view” of the proposed monopole from the southern side of the roundabout at the junction of Farnham Place and Farnham Street and that the structure would “adversely impact” on the wider setting.

Neither did he consider “vegetation or the distance” of the mast at Gallows Hill enough to “satisfactorily mitigate” the visual impact of the planned mast, siding with the council in its decision to refuse permission.

However, Mr Taylor's recommendation was not taken up by board member Chris McGarry who “decided to grant permission” having considered “the totality of documentation on file, including the submission of the planning authority”, based on the conclusion the mast would “not lead to overbearance”.