independent

Monday 27 February 2017

Taghmon tele mast under appeal to an Bord Pleanála

Maria Pepper

TD Mick Wallace is among the objectors to the monopole mast
TD Mick Wallace is among the objectors to the monopole mast

The Independent T.D. Mick Wallace is among a large number of objectors to the proposed construction of a telecommunications mast in Poulmarle, Taghmon which was refused planning permission by Wexford County Council and is now the subject of an appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

Three Ireland (Hutchison) Ltd was denied permission to build a 24 metre high monopole with antennae, transmission dishes and security fencing because there is already planning permission in place for the construction of a house too close to the mast site which is situated a mile from the centre of Taghmon village and 800 metres from the local school.

Council planner David Wall said the mast would be contrary to proper planning and sustainable development of the area by reason of its close proximity to a dwelling which has been approved for planning as the development would impact negatively on future residential amenity for the occupiers.

Three Ireland which was previously refused planning permission for a mast in Taghmon in December 2009 because that site was too close to the local GAA pitch, lodged an appeal with An Bord Pleanála which is due to be decided by May 9 this year.

A large number of objections were received by Wexford County Council from people in the area, many of whom said the mast would ruin the visual landscape on an elevated site. However, Mr. Wall did not accept this, saying that in his experience, such structures, being tall and thin, are not visually obtrustive.

Some objectors drew the attention of planning officers to a roost of bats in a shed on Martin and Ann Quinn Butcher's property. Mr. Wall said he could not confirm the exact location of the premises. The Council's Bio-Diversity Officer said a bat survey would be required to pin-point the location of the bats and their feeding grounds. He also said any fencing would have to include mammal gates given the proximity of a badger sett.

Assistant Planner Mr. Wall said while he did not list the bats as a reason for refusal, it remained a material consideration. The area engineer had recommended that permission should be granted.

Among those who objected to the development in public submissions to the Council were the Independent T.D. Mick Wallace who gave his Leinster House address in Dublin, Poulmarle Residents Association and the principal, Board of Management and Parents' Council of St. Fintan's National School.

Their concerns included fears about a negative impact on the health of humans and livestock, and a reduction in the value of houses. Residents said the mast would not be in keeping with the surrounding agricultural and residential area and claimed a substantial number of houses, a school and a handball alley would be affected by it. They pointed out that two-storey dwellings are not permitted in the area.

They also said the site is located close to local heritage sites including a Quakers' graveyard and meeting room and St. Munn's Well. Residents maintained that there is no need for the mast and said fibre broadband is due to be completed in the area by 2020 which would make the mast obsolete.

The planning officer disagreed with the claim that the mast is not necessary, saying there is sufficient justification for an additional mast to provide an improved service for the Taghmon area. He also accepted that the existing Vodafone structure in Taghmon does not have enough room for additional equipment and said other masts to the east, southwest and northwest are too far away.

He described the location of the proposed mast, close to the highest point in Taghmon as a logical one and said he did not agree that any future provision of fibre optic broadband would remove the need for such telecommunications structures providing mobile phone coverage.

Mr. Wall acknowledged the high level of concern locally about the potential health implications and the mast's impact on residences and a school but said the separation distance for houses closest to the school was between 280 to 330 metres.

While the planning authority wasn't competent to assess health effects, he said he did not consider that the amenity of existing houses would be unduly affected.

Wexford County Council has granted planning permission for a house in close proximity to the site, approximately 35 metres away, and a mast would unduly impact on the residential amenity of this property, Mr. Wall concluded.

He said that while work has not yet started on the house, the permission does not expire until August 22 and there is sufficient time remaining for it to be built, finished and occupied. Planning permission was refused for this reason.

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