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15-metre mast to be erected beside Croagh Patrick

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DECISION OVERTURNED An Bord Pleanála granted permission for the mast in Murrisk despite its own inspector recommending refusal.

Bord Pleanála grants permission for controversial Murrisk mast

Anton McNulty

AN Bord Pleanála has granted planning permission for a 15-metre-high telecommunications mast close to Croagh Patrick – despite its own inspector’s recommendation that permission be refused.
The controversial planning application by Eircom Ltd to erect the colossal mast at Murrisk was met with mixed opinions among planners.
Mayo County Council originally granted permission in April following the intervention of the then acting chief executive Peter Duggan, against the advice of his planners, while the board of An Bord Pleanála (ABP) has now made a similar decision.
The application was met with a number of local objections, with many people citing its close proximity to Croagh Patrick and the National Famine Memorial and the adverse impact it may have on the sensitive landscape.
The site for the mast is located adjacent to the existing Eir exchange building in the west Mayo village. Eircom says the mast is required in the area due the poor mobile-phone coverage in the area.
Eircom also claims that there is no alternative site that would satisfy the requirements of the Mayo County Council Development Plan, and that refusal would result in them losing essential coverage.
Lorna Judge, assistant planner with Mayo County Council, had recommended refusal due to its location in a scenic area, but the decision was overturned following a review of the file by Mr Duggan.

Alternative sites
The decision was appealed to An Bord Pleanála (ABP) by four separate objectors, who claimed the mast would have a detrimental impact on local visual amenities. It was also noted that other developments in the area, including housing, had been refused planning permission on the basis they would have an unacceptable impact on the visual amenities of the area.
In response, Eircom claimed that it found that there is no existing commercial structures in the area that could provide the required height and space for the Eircom equipment.
In his report, Paul Caprani, inspector with ABP, stated that from his site inspection he found that the mast would result in a ‘degradation of views northwards towards Clew Bay from Croagh Patrick’.
Mr Caprani also stated that he was not entirely satisfied that Eircom explored other locations in the vicinity where the presence of a mast may not be so prominent.
“Alternative sites in more extensive woodland areas on the southern side of the R335 both further west and further east may prove to be somewhat less sensitive in visual terms while providing the area with sufficient broadband and mobile telephony coverage,” he wrote.
In conclusion, Mr Caprani recommended that ABP overturn Mayo County Council’s decision and refuse planning permission because the proposed development would degrade the character of the surrounding landscape and seriously injure the visual amenities of the area.
However, Mr Caprani’s recommendation was not followed by ABP, which stated that it was satisfied that the mast would have a ‘limited visual impact that would be acceptable at this location’, which it said is an appropriate location for the purposes of providing 2G, 3G and 4G coverage in the area.
Planning permission was granted subject to six conditions.