‘Tree’ mast awaits second reprieve in October

An appeal has been lodged with An Bord Pleanála this week after Westmeath County Council refused an application to replace an obsolete communications mast with one that is disguised as a tree.

A consortium called Line Investments Partnership based in Ballinamuck, Co Longford applied in April to erect a 35m (100ft ) mast in the shape of a pine tree on Frewin Hill, which overlooks the northwestern corner of Lough Owel, but were refused on May 27.

This is Line Investments’ second attempt to build at this location. They were first turned down in 2008, but were successful in an appeal to An Bord Pleanala.

However, due to the downturn in the economy they were unable to execute their plan in the time allotted, and this permission elapsed after five years.

“An Bord Pleanala even said we didn’t have to make it look like a tree,” said company spokesman, and consulting engineer Mark Cunningham.

The plan calls for the removal of the existing cable-stayed 35m lattice tower, which has been on the hill since 1997, and responsible for the at times unreliable cellular telephony between Mullingar, Edgeworthstown, and Ballymahon.

The plan under appeal would see a stand-alone tower of the same height erected, with a ‘branch’ span of 8.7m to hide and disguise the electronic array.

Neither the council’s area engineer; the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; nor the Civil Aviation Authority made any objections or submissions on the re-lodged application, despite being notified.

However, a Department submission on the 2008 application in relation to the four Bronze Age burial mounds on Frewin Hill was central to the council’s decision to refuse this plan.

“It is my opinion that the proposed development detracts from the character, setting, and interpretative experience of the monuments, and should it be permitted, it would result in unacceptable cumulative development in this sensitive archaeological area,” said the planner in their May 27 decision.

A final decision from An Bord Pleanála is expected in October.

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