Locals voice opposition to plan for 18m mast next to Glasson house
Local residents have expressed serious concerns about the planned installation of a telecommunications mast that is due to be erected just nine metres from a house on the outskirts of Glasson.
A planning application by Eircom Ltd, trading as Eir, for the 18-metre mast, or monopole, was granted permission by Westmeath County Council in early 2021, despite a report from a local authority planner who recommended that permission for it be refused.
Some local residents, including Edel Finneran whose house is nine metres from the planned structure, appealed the grant of planning permission to An Bord Pleanála, but the planning board upheld the council's verdict in the summer of 2021.
The site for the development is at the existing Eir exchange on the Ballymahon Road, between Glasson village and Tubberclair GAA Club, and Towercom is the company carrying out the development.
Residents in the area have expressed a variety of concerns about it, including the effect it could have on property values and possible long-term health impacts from living in close proximity to telecom infrastructure.
Two weeks ago, on the morning of Wednesday, March 15, workers for Towercom arrived at the site. They were approached by local residents, and subsequently left without carrying out work there.
Speaking to the Westmeath Independent this week, Ms Finneran said she had endured "two years of stress and worry" as a result of this proposal.
She queried whether the nine-metre distance between her home and the proposed development would make it the nearest mast to a house anywhere in rural Ireland.
"I assumed from the get-go that they would never get permission for a mast of that height, a co-located mast, eighteen metres high, with a red light on top, right beside a house. Obviously I was wrong," she said.
Ms Finneran said she was not "anti-technology" but pointed out that masts were environmentally sensitive and, unlike in some other European countries, there was no standardised protocol for mast applications here.
"I think if it goes up it will be a powerful visual image of everything that is wrong with our planning system," she commented.
Another nearby resident, Helen Claffey, agreed the matter was causing "an awful lot of stress" in the locality.
"The bottom line is that we're all afraid of the health hazards. That's the biggest issue with it," said Helen, who said she feared property values in the area would also be impacted.
Westmeath TD Robert Troy helped organise two meetings between local residents and Towercom, but he said some information which the residents requested at these meetings had not been forthcoming from the company to date.
"It has left a sour taste with the residents. They're not happy with the proposal as it is, but, that being said, Towercom have a live planning (permission) and they didn't want to countenance looking at any alternative location (for the mast)," said the TD.
In response to questions from the Westmeath Independent this week, Towercom spokesperson John Gallagher said all issues related to planning were governed by the planning authorities, while compliance matters in respect of communications networks were controlled and monitored by Comreg.
"Towercom does not have any role in these areas but follows all relevant regulations in development of this site, as it does for all other similar sites throughout the country," he said.
Mr Gallagher said the company "has listened to the concerns and questions expressed at two meetings locally, which relate to issues about safety of mobile technology."
He said the Glasson development "will deliver services identically to sites countrywide, many of which are situated next to houses or on rooftops and very close to human habitation.
"The site has full planning permission and will comply with all relevant health and other regulations."
Asked about a possible timeframe for construction of the mast, Mr Gallagher said Towercom "sought to carry out initial investigation and planning work at the site earlier this month, but our staff were physically prevented from undertaking their work".
He said it was "planned that the work will be undertaken in stages over coming weeks and months, with full services available to the community in Westmeath later in 2023".