CONTROVERSIAL plans for a 21-metre telecoms mast in Scariff have prompted a major objection from a group calling itself East Clare Community Residents, writes Fiona McGarry.
Eir proposes to replace a 12-metre wooden pole, at its exchange on The Connacht Road, with a much higher mast with dishes, antennas and other equipment.
When submissions closed at the end of January, a total of 11 objections had been made. One of those is a detailed document with 48 signatures on behalf of East Clare Community Residents.
Deputy Michael McNamara, has also made a representation on the file, “requesting the need for Clare County Council to engage with those who have made submissions and those who have concerns within the wider public to ensure those concerns are addressed in the planning process”.
The 14-page objection from East Clare Community Residents raises concerns about the impact of the proposed mast on the Architectural Conservation Area (ACA) of Scariff and Tuamgraney.
It outlines detailed concerns over health and safety and takes issue over the proximity of the proposed mast to Scariff National School.
The objection cites a number of national and international publications and policy documents on health, education and planning.
Its conclusion states: “I urgently request that you prioritise the safety of the people who live and work in the vicinity of Scariff and especially the children who attend Scariff National School.
“I am not against the use of technology, but it must be safe for everyone and in this respect there is the alternative option of using wired fibre broadband instead of wireless telecommunication, which is safer, faster, more reliable and more cyber-secure.”
In addition to Scariff and Tuamgraney, addresses of signatories are located across East Clare, including Mountshannon, Flagmount, Feakle and Bodyke.
A number of people living close to the exchange have also lodged individual objections. They have told planners the development will impact negatively on them, in terms of their enjoyment of their homes and gardens.
They had also said that the structure will overshadow their family homes, and that they have concerns about the development being located in the centre of a residential area.
In its letter of application, Eir argues that the new mast would be screened by the exchange building and by mature trees, and that it is essential to 3G and 4G coverage for homes and businesses. The document notes that the digital market is expanding “at exponential rates”.
“Today mobile phones are only one component of a digital world inhabited by a wide range of communications services including wearable technology and IoT [Internet of Things],” the letter states.
The company adds that, in order to continue to roll out 3G and 4G services, it requires an additional site in Scariff.
“The current site that the Eir antenna are located at are clipped by neighbouring trees,” the company states. “This is leading to a reduced service in Scarriff [sic] centre.”
As a justification for the new mast, Eir states that “existing infrastructure is inadequate to fulfil the current and forecast demand for new technologies and communication services”.
Eir says that the new mast would be able to accommodate more operators and boost coverage for residents and businesses.
Eir also says that a site at Drewsborough where it operates a 27-metre mast, along with Vodafone, is not considered suitable.
It contends that replacing the Scariff mast “is the only realistic and feasible option available”.
The company also maintains that the project is in line with the objectives of the National Development Plan, Project 2040, The National Planning Framework, The Report of the Mobile & Broadband Taskforce & Action Plan for Rural Development and the Our Rural Future policy document.
In relation to the visual impact, Eir says that the mast will not increase the number of telecommunications in the town and that it will be screened, from the Connacht Road, by the exchange building and existing mature trees.
“Failure to provide these services will have an adverse impact on the local area and its economy,” the application states.
The Council is considering the application and the submissions and has given February 15 as an indicative decision date.