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The Eir exchange at Connacht Road, Scariff. Photograph by John Kelly

An Bord Pleanala overturns Council refusal for Clare mast

CONTROVERSIAL plans for a large telecoms mast at the Eir Exchange in Scariff have been given the green light by An Bord Pleanála. While the Council had refused the mast last August, the appeals board has now overturned that decision

Developer Eircom, trading as Eir, lodged an appeal last September after its proposals to remove an existing wooden pole and replace it with a 21m structure were turned down by the local authority.

It followed a major campaign of opposition from local residents and a group called East Clare Community Residents. Deputy Michael McNamara had also made a representation asking the Council to engage with those who had made submissions. 

Following the appeal, the Council asked An Bord Pleanála to refuse the mast and to copper-fasten its decision to refuse. These included the impact of the structure on a visually prominent site where it would “dominate the eastern approach to Scariff, inherently alter the character of the town and the Scenic Route at this location”.

The Council had also found that the mast would be too high to be so close to a number of local homes. 

A number of people who had previously objected to the mast were observers on the appeal and reiterated their concerns about the impact on residential and visual amenity.

After an assessment of the planning file documents, the site and the local, regional and national guidelines, an Bord Pleanála approved the structure. Its inspector said it appeared the scenic route in question is the R352 from Scariff to Mountshannon.

He noted that the site is not located on that route, but on the Connacht Road, the L4028. Noting too that the mast would be 60m from the R352, the inspector said that after walking and driving in the area, he believed the mast would only be “intermittently visible”. He also found that the development would benefit the local rural community. 

In respect of guidelines on telecoms structures, the inspector found that the size of the mast would be acceptable at the location. He noted concern about the proximity of the mast to local homes, but said the existing guidelines do not specify a minimum separation distance. He said he did not consider the mast to be “excessively obtrusive or overbearing”. 

Recommending that permission be granted, the inspector outlined seven conditions. Measures must be taken to protect visual amenity and the operator must make the mast available to other telecoms companies to avoid a proliferation of masts in the area. 

The application for the mast was lodged in December of 2021. The Council sought Further Information (FI) in February of last year. That was supplied by the developer last August and the Council issued its decision to refuse permission later that month. 

In its appeal Eir told An Bord Pleanála it was willing to reduce the height of the mast to 18m, if necessary.

Making the offer, the appeal document warned that that would provide coverage to the town, but “will reduce the quality of service to the wider area” and “result in a reduction for other digital coverage providers to gain representation on it”. In deciding to grant permission, An Bord Pleanála made no recommendation on reducing the height of the mast. 

About Fiona McGarry

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