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‘Microwave hearing’ cited in Cooraclare mast appeal

Angela Collins, Leitrim, Cree, has lodged an appeal against Clare County Council’s decision to grant Brian Sexton of Clare Broadband planning permission to retain a broadband mast at Cloonreddan, Cooraclare.

As part of her appeal, Ms Collins submitted a letter from her consultant neurologist, Dr Harib Rahman of the Neurology Department, University Hospital Galway and Galway Clinic.

“Angela Collins is suffering from microwave hearing, due to the location of the mast near her home,” Dr Rahman stated.

Corofin planning consultant, Brendan McGrath submitted a number of planning documents on behalf of Ms Collins.

In a submission to the appeals’ board, Mr McGrath stated that a visual inspection shows the mast is about 17 metres in height, 70% higher than the 10 metres stated in the retention application.
“In my opinion, the documentation and information submitted are of poor quality. In addition to misrepresentation of the physical scale of the development, there are other deficiencies.

“The submitted drawings and plans do not show contours and existing masts in breach of Article 23 of the regulations.

“The poor technical quality of this application and the inadequacy of the response to the further information request leaves the impression of an applicant not taking the planning system seriously and treating the planning application as a formality. The local landscape doesn’t possess an outstanding character but, in the general interest of residential amenity, the local landscape should be conserved and due care given to the siting of new infrastructure,” he stated.

Mr McGrath claimed there was no evidence that the applicant had made a serious effort to utilise an existing mast or more suitable alternative site, in accordance with planning guidelines for telecommunications antennae and support structures, which encourage the sharing and clustering of telecommunications facilities in the interest of visual amenity. He claimed the applicant had not demonstrated satisfactory compliance with the Clare County Development Plan objective relating to development in settled landscapes and stated the development as “inadequately and misleadingly described”.

“Drumellihy Hill offers an alternative, more suitable location for the proposal. Drumellihy has already been endorsed by the local planning authority as a suitable location for telecommunications infrastructure. My client is objecting to this application on planning grounds. She also has a very serious health condition, as a result of the operation of this mast,” he said.

In a recent letter to the planning authority, HSE public health director, Dr Mai Mannix said her colleague, Gerard Leen, principal environmental health officer in Clare, wrote to the authority in October with joint recommendations from their two departments in relation to the additional broadband mast in Cooraclare, to which ongoing health problems have been linked.

Ms Mannix also wrote to local GPs to ask them if they had reviewed patients with similar health complaints.

“No new reports of a local pattern of similar problems have been received from GPs to date. Therefore, there is no evidence at this point to support the existence of a population-level public health risk.
“However, the absence of a population-level risk profile doesn’t exclude risk to single individuals exposed to a potential source of risk,” she stated.

She said she understood that no monitoring was undertaken by the council or the operators and asked if the authority could explain the reasons why this was not considered, in view of the HSE recommendations.

“The original complainant continues to report ongoing health problems confirmed by medical advisers and, without monitoring of emissions, it will not be possible to reassure any member of the public that the appropriate guideline levels have not been exceeded,” she added.

More than 80 other residents, including Ms Collins, as well as Dr Michael Harty TD and his wife, Geraldine, a registered general nurse, expressed a number of personal objections.The Hartys claimed their Eircom service “has deteriorated considerably” since the erection of the mast.

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.

In response to a further information request from the council, Martin Tubridy, MNT Draughting Servicves, Cooraclare, stated 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 that 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.

By Dan Danaher

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