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Phone mast to stay for nine months despite outcome of judicial review
Ireland Created: 6 Jul 2022
A telecommunications company has agreed to move a mobile network mast placed in a Dublin suburb on foot of a flawed decision by An Bord Pleanála – if the mast is left in place for nine months.

Cignal, an Irish subsidiary of Spanish telecomms giant Cellnex, first applied to install the 15-metre tall mast at Kingswood in Tallaght to South Dublin County Council in March of 2020, with that request approved in September of the same year.

The mast application was made under Section 254 of the Planning and Development Act, which grants licences for certain developments along public roads, and the mast itself was built in on Sunday, November 15, 2020.

The matter was appealed to the planning authority in December 2020 by a local community group, the Kingswood Heights Mast Opposition Committee, with ABP’s planning inspector backing the group, stating he was “not satisfied” that the proposed mast location “is on or along a public road in accordance with the requirements of Section 254”.

Section 254 has been used in other jurisdictions, notably Cork city, for the installation of masts as it exempts structures less than 12 metres in height from requiring planning permission.

The planning inspector’s opinion was subsequently overruled by ABP’s deputy chair Paul Hyde, who said in his ruling in May 2021 that the mast “would not be contrary to the site’s open space land use zoning objective” and would be “in accordance with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.

Mr Hyde, who is currently absent from his duties “without prejudice” pending the results of a number of inquiries regarding his decisions with ABP, made no reference to Section 254 in his order. The Irish Examiner previously revealed that Mr Hyde had voted to override his own planning inspectors in the vast majority – 31 out of 36 - of applications for telecommunications masts made to ABP over the past two years.

The Tallaght community group took a judicial review regarding the ABP decision to the High Court in July of last year, with the planning body agreeing last May to drop its defence of Mr Hyde’s decision, and to pay the objecting group’s legal costs, due to the mast not having been located on a public road.

Cignal then agreed to relocate the mast providing a nine-month timeframe was allowed for the move to take place. It’s understood the local community has insisted that a maximum of a three-month timeframe be granted.

However, no judicial order officially quashing the ABP decision is likely until an agreement has been reached, leaving the situation at an impasse, with a decision unlikely before the courts close for three months on July 29.

A spokesperson for the mast opposition committee said it “formally calls on Cignal to acknowledge the illegality of the mast they erected on public open space and formally calls on them to remove the mast with the same haste that they had in putting it up”.

“I can confirm that An Bord Pleanála, through its legal agents, has informed the High Court that it is conceding this case,” a spokesperson for the planning body said. Asked whether or not it is appropriate the mast should remain in place for nine months given the ruling is invalid, the spokesperson said “that is not a matter within the jurisdiction of An Bord Pleanala”.

A spokesperson for Cellnex meanwhile said that the company “complies with the planning decisions at a local authority and, as necessary, An Bord Pleanala level on all our sites”.

“It would be inappropriate to comment on ongoing legal proceedings in which Cellnex is not a party to,” they added.
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Source: Irish Examiner, Cianan Brennan, 01 Jul 2022

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