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Knocknacarra phone mast refused ‘stay of execution’


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Knocknacarra phone mast refused ‘stay of execution’ Knocknacarra phone mast refused ‘stay of execution’

The owners of a mobile phone mast on the Cappagh Road – for which planning permission expired nearly three years ago – have failed in a last-ditch effort to keep it in place.

Vantage Towers had asked Galway City Council for a temporary twelve-month permission to keep the mast in place – despite telling the local authority two years ago that “arrangements are in hand for its decommissioning and removal”.

Galway City Council has refused the company’s application for permission to temporarily retain the structure, which provides phone and data coverage for Vodafone, Eir and Three Ireland in the Cappagh Road area.

The mast operator, which was spawned from Vodafone, has a 24-metre-high telecoms monopole with antenna and dishes at Feeney’s Field on the Upper Cappagh Road. The structure is camouflaged to look like a tree.

Planning permission for the mast expired in July 2021 and the equipment is the subject of an Enforcement Notice from the Council.

The company was told that the structure must be removed because it is on the route of the proposed Galway City Ring Road – which is currently before An Bord Pleanála for a decision on planning.

Vantage Towers drew up a proposal in 2022 to site a new mast 100 metres away – also on Feeney’s land – which was refused by the Council and that decision was upheld by the Planning Appeals Board.

A further Enforcement Notice was subsequently issued by the Council over the original mast.

The telecoms operator argued that the Bord Pleanála refusal for a new mast was “on a technicality” and it would be submitting a fresh application for that new site.

In its decision, the Board said that during the appeals process, the applicant came up with alternative access arrangements to the site, and that did not form part of the original planning application.

Seeking the 12-month ‘stay’, the company accepted that the 24-metre pole would have to be decommissioned and removed [if and when] work starts on the ring road.

“An Enforcement Notice has been serviced in respect of this structure and it is acknowledged that it must be removed for the provision of the new ring road. Without an alternative, this will create a substantial void in coverage for a wide area and population for both social and business purposes. Failure to provide these services will have an adverse impact on the local area and its economy.

“However, it is noted that the new ring road has had its own planning issues with matters recently being placed back with An Bord Pleanála following a judicial review. Due to the technical issues associated with the alternative mast and with the ring road, both have experienced delays. “Nevertheless, this has therefore placed an urgency for a new structure to ensure continuity of services and avoid loss of coverage to a large population. As a result of these delays, Vantage request for a temporary grant of consent in respect of the existing structure to ensure a continued provision of services for the area.

“It is anticipated that an application for a new replacement structure will be submitted shortly,” the application read.

Eight existing nearby mast sites were ruled out – Bearna Golf Club, Truskey West, the Twelve Hotel, Clybaun Hotel, Gateway Shopping Park, Kingston Hall, An Címín Mór and a former B&B opposite the Spinnaker – because they were “too far away to secure the required coverage for the Cappagh area”.

“Service provision for all three operators in Cappagh has become a crucial concern since the required decommissioning of the structure. Replacement of these services requires fit for purpose supporting infrastructure from which to transmit.

“There is no available infrastructure capable of accommodating mobile and data services equipment and consequently a new site is required. Every effort is being made to secure a new site however this is taking longer than expected and a request for a temporary is requested to ensure continuity of service,” the application reads.

The Galway National Roads Project Office made a submission on the plan that the mast “remains in conflict with the N6 Galway City Ring Road”.

“However, a further temporary permission of twelve months is possible with the earliest likely timeframe for requiring full acquisition of the site being beyond then,” the Roads Office said.

However, city planners have now refused the application for temporary retention.

Pictured: The mobile phone mast was designed to look like a tree.

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