18
Nov
2005

Call for council ban on masts near schools and populated areas

Tipperary Today

The County Development Plan should be changed to ensure no mobile phone masts are located within one kilometre of schools, hospitals, churches and other populated places, it was proposed at the November meeting of South Tipperary County Council.

Cllr Mattie McGrath made the proposal saying that people should "err on the side of caution" where the telecommunication masts were concerned.

In his motion to the County Council, Cllr McGrath asked that wording be inserted into the Development Plan saying, "no phone masts/antenna can be located within one kilometre of housing developments, schools, hospitals, churches and amenity/community facilities."

He is also calling for existing masts located near schools, childcare facilities and playgrounds, to be removed immediately.

Explaining his concerns, in a statement to The Nationalist, Cllr McGrath said he based his proposal on recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

He said he also took into account scientific evidence that emissions from the masts cause adverse health affects.

"It is the responsibility of the Council to ensure the health and safety of the public is not compromised," Cllr McGrath said.

At the Council meeting Cllr McGrath received support from fellow councillors.

Cllr Pat English said serious health questions remain about mobile phone masts, and Cllr Liam Aherne said nobody wants a mast close to them and to have them close to housing estates is "not on."

Director of Services Seán Keating said that the current guidelines from the Department of the Environment said masts could only be located in villages, towns or near school as a last resort. There are some cases where masts can be located near schools, however, he added.

This is written into the current County Development Plan, but there are discussions taking place about reviewing those guidelines, Mr. Keating said.

He told the meeting that another issue is that many types of developments related to masts and new antennae are exempt from planning and any changes to the County Development Plan would make no difference to them.

Cllr McGrath said other councils had put wording like his suggestion into their plans.

Cllr Liam Aherne pointed out that the masts that are exempt from planning must give the Council written notice four weeks before the mast is erected.

County Manager, Ned O'Connor, said he could understand the motion, but in reality if the councillors are to achieve what they want the only way to is to change the national policy.

He said there were two reasons he suggested that, firstly because if they review their development plan the Department of the Environment will have to be informed and they will not approve a change that is contrary to Department guidelines.

Secondly, he said, if the development plan is changed and planning applications are affect people could go to An B"rd Pleanála who would refer to the national guidelines, not the county plan.

Council Chairman, Derry Foley, proposed that the change in guidelines be put to the department, and when they are changed the development plan can be altered. "We don't have the power to change it here," he said.

"We all want to protect people. Step one should be taken before step two," Cllr Ambrose said, supporting the chairman.

Cllr McGrath agreed to defer his motion for one month to do this.

10 November 2005
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