Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Residents in opposition to proposed phone mast

A planning application to build a huge mobile phone mast in Cullyhanna village has prompted concern among residents, amid claims that the proposal could go ahead without proper consultation.

According to homeowners living near the proposed site on the Skeriff Road, there has been little consultation with locals by the Planning Office, with only a handful of residents receiving formal notification by letter.   The planning application (ref number LA07/17/0306/02) proposes a 17.5m telecommunications mast carrying 3 antennae, 2 radio dishes and associated works including 3 equipment cabinets and an equipment compound at lands circa 25m south west of number 2a Skeriff Road in Cullyhanna.  The application has been submitted by telecommunications giant Telefonica UK Ltd (O2).

A spokesperson for the Skeriff Road residents told The Examiner that the majority of people were only alerted to the plans via an advertisement, which appeared in a local newspaper on March 15th.  The Cullyhanna man, who owns a property just 20m away from the site of the proposed mast, says people are angry at the lack of consultation from Newry, Mourne and Down District Planning Department or the Cullyhanna Community Enterprise group, who own the land earmarked for the mast.  Residents also feel aggrieved by the fact the deadline for submitting formal objections to the plans has been set for this Wednesday 29th March – leaving a very small window of time available to gather the objections.  Despite the tight deadline, the concerned local is confident that a substantial force of objections will be lodged, with groups of people who are against the erection of the mast scheduling meetings since last week to gather the formal objections.

“There is a growing unease about this planning application,” the spokesman told us.

“It feels like it has been just sprung on people in the last week and this is what has caused such unease. There has been so little consultation and all of a sudden right in the middle of Cullyhanna there is going to be a huge phone mast.  This is not acceptable to people living here.  One resident is only 18m away from the mast itself.  We feel other sites should have been considered,” he said, adding that planners have claimed in the application that seven other sites were considered but that the document incorrectly refers to a location in Ardglass, not Cullyhanna.

“Nobody could believe this proposal was about to happen and now people are very actively opposing it.  We have learned that the planning department believe this is a commercial area – it most definitely is not, with at least 10 residential properties within the 90m threshold,” he added.

“We intend to lodge well above the minimum six objections to this planning application and will make our voices heard when this is forced back into public consultation on the issue.”

The Examiner contacted NMDDC Planning Department for a response to the concerns of the Cullyhanna residents but had not received a reply at the time of going to press.

Meanwhile, a second local community has called a public meeting this week to discuss a planning application for another Telefonica mast in the area.  The Culloville Development Association revealed that the telecommunications company is in the process of identifying a location for a phone mast in the area, with the preferred site being an area close to the Culloville Community Centre on the Corasmoo Road.

Inviting members of the community to a attend a public meeting on the issue, the community group said that planners claimed to have examined a number of locations in the area before expressing preference for the Corasmoo Road site. All local residents are encouraged to attend the important public meeting to be held in Culloville Community Centre this coming Wednesday 29th March at 8pm.