Residents furious over towering mast proposal in scenic location

Concerned residents in the Partry area are mobilising to object to a proposed 80-feet high telecommunications mast at Coillte lands in Furnace which is the subject of a planning application being considered by the Mayo County Council.

The 24-metre high 3G telecommunications mast will cater for broadband rollout under the Government’s National Broadband Scheme but opposing locals claim there is enough broadband availability in the area at present.

A well-attended public meeting took place in Harrington’s Bar on Wednesday night where members of the Furnace, Cloonee, Partry and Environs action group outlined details of the proposed mast which is being applied for by the Hong Kong owned Hutchinson 3G Ireland. They said the proposal facilitates the adding on of further masts to this imposing structure.

An action group has come together to lodge an objection to the planning application and to help individuals to lodge similar objections. Residents feel the enormity of the structure would not be in keeping with the local landscape and totally oppose its situation in clear view of the picturesque lakes and mountains.

The site of the proposed mast is on Coillte owned lands in the very scenic Furnace area and a decision on the application is due by Mayo County Council on September 17. The deadline for submitting objections is August 27.

Action group member Paul McGuire was critical of the timing of the submission of the application. He claimed the applicants chose the quiet holiday period to lodge their application when locals would be holidaying and not fully aware of developments in their community.

One of the main concerns expressed by another protester Alice Maher was the risk to infants from the radiation emitted from the mast. Maher presented a photograph of the nearby Lough Carra with a superimposed impression of the proposed mast towering above the Coillte owned trees.

The meeting heard of the huge failure rate in the growth of trees in the Coillte forestry, the site for the proposed mast, which they claimed would never grow high enough to hide the mast. Members said by erecting such a structure in this area, Coillte is contravening its own strategic plan for Mayo. They pointed out that there is a huge industrial archaeological issue in Furnace, the mast would be viewed by fishermen on the lakes, and would damage local tourism. Local plans to develop a loop walk off the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail would also be in jeopardy at a time when Mayo County Council is trying to promote Mayo as the walking capital of Ireland.

Mr McGuire added that a large number of people in the affected areas already have broadband and are satisfied with their service, and he asked the question: “Do you want quicker broadband or a massive pylon?”

Some of the main points which will form the objection include the fact that the proposal is located in an area of scenic beauty, it is visible from Lough Mask, it could be located on higher ground, it can be seen from scenic outlooks, the trees are not adequate to camouflage it and never will be, and the provision for add ons. With only two weeks left to submit objections residents were urged to compile their letters urgently.

Mr McGuire reminded those present that many residents in the affected areas bought sites and designed houses to specifically benefit from the wonderful views available in the area. However, he said neither Coillte nor Hutchinson 3G has considered this.

Mayo County Council has already granted permission to Hutchinson 3G for a similar mast at Largan, Kiltimagh, and there are eight other similar applications being considered by the planning authority. These are located at Funshinaugh (Cross ), Kilsallagh Lower (Westport ), Drumneen (Islandeady ), Meelick (Swinford ), Midfield (Swinford ), Greenwood (Ballyhaunis ), Aghagower (Westport ), and Lissatava (Hollymount ).

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