KERRY county Council members have voted to retain the council's 1km Rule, which prohibits the erection of telecommunications masts within one kilometre of houses, schools and work places.
Despite recommendations by council management to scrap the controversial rule in the County Development Plan 2015-2021, councillors voted by a majority of 17 to five to retain it at a special planning meeting on Monday.
An Bord Pleanala has regularly criticised the rule, accusing the local authority of having conflicting policies and objectives when it comes to granting permission for telecommunications masts - claiming on one hand to support the development of efficient telecommunications masts, yet banning them within one kilometre of occupied properties.
At Monday's meeting of the council, Director of Planning Michael McMahon outlined that since 2009 the council has dealt with 70 such planning applications, 61 of which were refused because of the 1km Rule/ Of those, 55 were appealed to An Bord Pleanala and 49 were subsequently granted permission, overturning Kerry County Council's initial ruling.
He added that the 1km Rule goes against national policy to develop the telecommunications network and said if members insist on retaining the clause in the county development plan then they will have to put forward adequate planning reasons for its inclusion.
Among those in favour of scrapping the controversial rule was Fianna Fail councillor John Brassil, who said it serves absolutely no purpose and was 'a mistake' from day one.
He said the fact that the council is crying out for foreign investment and proper telecommunications infrastructure, yet bannning masts because of the 1km Rule makes the local authority 'a laughing stock'
Cllr Jim Finucane was equally opposed to the retention of the rule and said that it makes the council look unprofessional.
Cllr Toireasa a Ferris and Cllr Danny Healy Rae, meanwhile, were most vocal in support of maintaining the rule, saying they had serious concerns about potential health risks assosiated with masts being in close proximity to schools, homes and businesses. They said they were unconvinced by arguments put forward that such masts posed no health risks and said they preferred to err on the side of caution.
A vote to retain the 1km Rule in the county development plan was carried by 17 votes to five, with councillors absent for the vote. Those who voted to remove the rule from the plan were Cllrs John Brassil, Jim Finucane, Pat McCarthy, John Sheahan, and Mayor Seamus Cosaí Fitzgerald.