Council’s refusal of 60 ft mast in Kilfenora overturned

An Bord Pleanála has overturned Clare County Council’s refusal of Eircom’s plan to erect a 60 ft telecoms mast just off Kilfenora Square.

Numerous objections from villagers were received by the Council, pointing out that this would be by far the tallest structure in the village, located right by houses fronting on Kilfenora Square (including a childrens’ creche) and on the road to Lickeen Lake, and visible from many parts of the village.  Given Kilfenora’s need to welcome visitors to its historic sites, the erection of an eyesore was seen by concerned locals as close to vandalism.

There IS a need for better cellular coverage in the area. However, there were significant doubts expressed about how much this mast would improve services – to the south, being placed in a dip (which is why it has to be so high), it would probably perform poorly, and in other directions might well only beam signal to outer areas rather than the village itself. The location chosen was clearly determined by the fact that this is a site that already has an Eircom installation, itself something of an eyesore – a matter of cost rather than effectiveness.

In terms of visual appearance, Clare Council rejected Eircom’s description of the mast as being akin to a ‘telegraph pole’. The Council recently and experimentally provided a wi-fi service in the Square; it would take little effort or cost to boost and extend this.

Eircom has provided no information on the precise performance of the mast. Indeed, strikingly this ‘communications company’ did not communicate with the residents of Kilfenora at any stage to explain their intentions and the potential benefits. Unsurprisingly, words such as ‘arrogant’ and ‘incompetent’ were among the politer comments to be heard about Eircom in local discussions.

This also seems to fit a pattern of initiatives by various public bodies that seem reluctant to engage with local communities in any meaningful way.

The same unfortunately applies to An Bord Pleanála. The Assessment by Inspector Adrian Ormsby, in rejecting the objections raised and the decision of Clare Council, was also not communicated to or discussed with the Kilfenora community, many of whom might find his various statements of ‘opinion’ to be quite debateable, for example that the mast will not be on a ‘scenic route’. The report indicates that he has not actually visited Kilfenora, and relied on some grainy photos (as below) and drawings.

An Bord Pleanála states that its decision can only be challenged by a ‘judicial review’, which of course would be hugely expensive.

So the situation seems to be that Kilfenora residents are left in the dark about when this installation will be erected, as well as whether it will actually be of any benefit in terms of connectivity.

Note that a previous attempt to erect a mast near Kilfenora some 15 years ago, in a forested area west of Noughaval (in reality less obtrusive than Eircom’s mast), was defeated after extensive public protests. In the course of that battle, a number of untruthful statements by telecoms company O2 were revealed.

The documentation on this case can be seen here.

A brief write-up on this decision was reported on the Clare Champion on 16.8.21, and can be seen here.

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