PLANNING approval for a controversial Cooraclare mast, linked to claims by recently elected TD, Dr Michael Harty of serious problems with his own internet connection, is now on hold.
An Bord Pleanála has been asked to take a fresh look at Clare County Council’s decision to grant Brian Sexton of Clare Broadband planning permission to retain a broadband mast at Cloonreddan, Cooraclare.
One of the original objectors, Angela Collins, has lodged an appeal with An Bord Pleanála.
In a letter to the council on July 20 last, Dr Harty and his wife, Geraldine, a registered nurse, expressed a number of personal objections.
They stated it was disappointing that a letter sent by the council concerning this unauthorised development was met by defiance and, instead of removing it, the owner/operator chose to develop it further instead.
“Our Vodafone service has been severely limited since this mast was erected. Several telephone calls to the service provider have resulted in no improvement.
“As Dr Harty is a medical doctor, it is vital that he has optimum telephone service 24 hours a day. Many calls with patients have failed during conversations and efforts to contact the patient again have failed within our house. The only way to re-contact the patient is to leave the area and telephone again,” they stated.
The Hartys claimed their Eircom service “has deteriorated considerably” since the erection of the mast.
“The connection drops every 10 to 15 minutes and remains disconnected for up to 20 minutes at a time. On Saturdays and Sundays, connection is particularly poor, as, presumably, many people use their own internet connections at the weekend.
“It has become impossible to continue our professional education with connections to the various universities, which we both use to update our professional information and skills.
“We have contacted Eircom about this also and they were unable to assist us. We conclude that the cause of the problems with our communication systems are due to the presence of this unauthorised mast and attached dishes.
“The drawing and photograph in the planning application do not identify all of the attachments that are actually on the mast at present,” they stated.
The council approved the retention of the mast with four attached conditions, including a requirement for a €15,000 planning contribution to the authority within six months of the final grant. The authority did not request the developer to undertake monitoring for a period of time, despite a request from the HSE.
In a submission to the council, HSE principal environmental health officer, Gerard Leen recommended that “in view of the complaints of health impact suspected to be linked to the presence of the additional unauthorised mast”, the authority should undertake appropriate monitoring, pending the outcome of the planning application.
Mr Leen said this would provide reassurance to the public that recommended limits are not being exceeded. The monitoring should include consideration of the emissions from the two currently licensed masts, as shared sites have higher emission levels than a single operator site.
“The planning process for such sites should consider whether potential operators have applied WHO guidance on open communication during the planning stages, which can help create public understanding and greater acceptance of a new facility,” Mr Leen stated.
In response to a further information request from the council, Martin Tubridy, MNT Draughting Services, Cooraclare, on behalf of the applicant, stated that the development is in compliance with SI No 240/2001 European Communications, has a Memorandum of Understanding from the Department of Communications and has the appropriate sanction from the Commission of Communications Regulations.
In a submission to the council, Mr Tubridy pointed out the existing site is the only suitable location in West Clare to improve broadband and the apparatus is the only wireless broadband provider to service this district.