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A general view of Scariff. Photograph by John Kelly.

Victory for locals as plan for Scariff mast reversed


Residents in East Clare are celebrating a planning victory after winning a judicial review overturning planning permission for a controversial mast proposed for Scariff.
Eoin Brady of FP Logue LLP Solicitors, took judicial review proceedings on behalf of East Clare residents challenging planning permission granted to Eircom Limited in January 2023.
This involved the replacement of a 12 metre wooden pole with a 21 metre high telecommunications monopole together with antennas, dishes and associated telecommunications equipment, enclosed by security fencing at Connacht Road, Scariff.
The Bord Pleanála order for the telecoms mast was quashed and the matter has been sent back to the board for further consideration.
The site is an existing Eir facility and communications exchange to the north east of Scariff, which includes an existing single-storey building with two existing monopole telecommunication structures located within the site, one to the rear and north side of the building, the other to the side and east of the current building.
There are existing two-storey houses, numbers 13 to 16 Dergview Estate, located close to the northeast boundary of the site and two other houses with deep back gardens facing the site to its north west boundary.
Clare County Council decided to refuse permission on August 29, 2022 because it felt by virtue of its siting and scale, it would dominate the eastern approach to Scariff, inherently alter the character of the town and the scenic route at this location and have a severe negative impact on the visual amenities of the area.
Notwithstanding the location of the site within an established infrastructure compound, the local authority considered that the height and design of the proposed structure was excessive, having regard to the location near a number of residential properties.
Submissions to the local authority focused mainly on negative visual impact, alternative more suitable sites available, alleged health and safety impacts, omissions, inaccurate and inconsistent details and drawings, proximity of Scariff National School and contravention of some County Development Plan sections.
In its appeal, Eircom Limited argued permission should be granted having regard to regional spatial and economic strategy for the area, section 28 guidelines, section 29 policy directives, local authority statutory obligations and any relevant policy of the Government, Minister or any Minister of the Government.
The company stated the proposal provides critical infrastructure and services for Scariff and the immediate area and it essentially upgrades an existing communications exchange.
Statistics were provided for the Irish market showing how demand within mobile and broadband networks is continuing to grow at an exponential pace.
Existing infrastructure cannot meet this demand and as a result the network must be expanded and upgraded to provide the quality of service required.
Due to the topography of the village and surrounding area, the company outlined a telecommunications structure must be able to reach above areas to provide signal propagation and to achieve line of sight to other masts to link into the network.
At 21 metres in height, 4G and 5G coverage for the town and catchment area beyond can be achieved.
An existing 27m mast about 980 metres to the south west of the site was discounted for co-location purposes as more equipment would not meet technical objectives for the target area.
It was submitted that the proposal does not contravene the Telecommunication Guidelines 1996.
“There is limited flexibility to secure the necessary coverage for Scariff. The site is an ideal location,” the appeal stated.
“It is acknowledged the structure will remain noticeable at different locations along a scenic route. It does not intrude overly on the general view of prospect. Due to the topography it is considered the mast will not be intrusive.
“Being close to residential areas does not justify a refusal.”

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