Council slams ‘underhand’ changes to phone mast planning

A recent Circular from the Department of Environment preventing County Councils from placing a limit on planning permissions granted for mobile masts in future has caused serious concern amongst local representatives.

A recent Circular from the Department of Environment preventing County Councils from placing a limit on planning permissions granted for mobile masts in future has caused serious concern amongst local representatives.

Raising the matter at Monday’s Council meeting, Cllr Gerry Kilrane said that he understood the Council had received a Circular which effectively prevented the granting of limited planning permission for mobile masts.

Previously, Local Authorities like Leitrim County Council were able to restrict planning permission to a five year temporary arrangement. However the Circular effectively meant that Councils could no longer avail of this option and planning, if granted, would be permanent.

“I am concerned that this was the one way we were able to exercise some control over the control of telecommunications mast. I don’t believe that this is a step in the right direction,” Cllr Kilrane told the November Council meeting.

“I understand that there is some argument being put forward that the issuing of temporary planning permission is seen as a potential barrier to the roll out of broadband. I am not against broadband but I also don’t see the temporary planning permission as a barrier to this rollout.

“I’m concerned that this change is now a ‘done deal’ and the distribution of this Circular is being done so “after the event” as was the case in the change to planning around septic tanks.”

County Manager, Jackie Maguire, said that the Council was currently assessing the implications of the Circular but she agreed it would impact on future planning permissions for masts.

While those currently granted temporary planning permission would continue under a limited permission basis, it is believed that, when the application comes up for renewal the planning for that mast would then be open to a full and permanent application, subject to planning restrictions.

However Cllr Kilrane pointed out that there was only a very narrow criteria for objecting to planning permission for masts, namely that objections could only be based on the location and the design.

“This leaves us very little opportunity to object to these applications,” he said, stressing the need for greater clarification following the circular.

His party colleague, Cllr Mary Bohan, agreed stating that this was a “very underhand way of changing things” and “it’s not giving much power to the people”.