Turlough residents object to 30 metre Vodafone mast

Plans to erect a telecommunications mast in Turlough, outside Castlebar, have met with opposition from local residents.

The 30-metre high structure, the subject of a planning application to Mayo County Council by Vodafone Ireland Ltd, is for a multi-user monopole support structure carrying antennas, link dishes, plus associated equipment containers, access track, and security fence to form part of its GSM and 3G broadband telecommunications network at Capparanny, Turlough, Castlebar, Co Mayo.

The application was lodged with the council on November 20, 2012 and a decision is due on January 23, 2013.

Locals, who only became aware of the application during the Christmas holidays and convened two public meetings to discuss the application, are quickly mounting a campaign of objection to the application and told the Mayo Advertiser they have lodged up to 45 objections with Mayo County Council over the last couple of days. The vast majority of these objections are group submissions with some individual objections being lodged also.

In a letter to the Mayo Advertiser one such objector said the people of Chancery, Capparanny, Carrowkeel, Craelaim, Cashel, Turlough, and surrounding villages were “surprised and deeply concerned” with the planning application for a permanent 30 metre telecommunication mast in the area.

The objector accused the applicant, Vodafone, of “falsely stating” that the proposed structure is in a remote area away from dwelling houses. It was the objector’s opinion that “this undesired development is to be located in a populated area with some of the houses with young families less than half the recommended distance from the structure”. He outlined a list of local amenities which would be infringed upon by the proposed development such as the Museum of Country Life, the Round Tower, two popular walking loops, a caravan park, as well as the proposed extension to the Greenway. He also claimed that the development, if granted permission, would contravene the council’s own development plan.

Representations have also been made to An Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s office to intervene in the matter.

The objectors say concerns are being raised about the risk to human health, ruination of the rural landscape, animal health in an agricultural area, visual intrusion, damage to flora and fauna, and property devaluation.

In its application Vodafone said the structure would bring “excellent coverage on Vodafone’s 2G and 3G networks in the Turlough area, parts of the N5, and the surrounding hinterland”, areas where coverage is often less than adequate.

Vodafone continued: “There is currently a gap in the service in this area as evidenced in the accompanying coverage plots and consequently there is an urgent requirement to upgrade the service coverage and provide 2G and 3G broadband to serve the existing businesses and residential customers and to advance the commercial interest of the local businesses in Castlebar and Turlough in general.”

While the company has existing base stations within Castlebar, they do not provide coverage in the general area of Turlough because of the natural topography of the area, the company explained.

The company also said there are no alternative sites available and it was previously refused permission by Mayo County Council for a different location in the area in September 2010.

Vodafone said that the provision of space for other licensed operators on the mast would reduce the need for other masts in the area in the future.

In its application Vodafone admits that there may be a “degree of visual impact” in providing the infrastructure but said it is now recognised that the infrastructure is part of the built service environment in a modern economy and should be accepted as such and benefit from a permanent grant of planning permission.

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