Councillors can't discuss Mayo mast planning applications

COUNCILLORS in Castlebar have expressed their dismay at not being allowed to discuss planning applications at meetings.

In particular, they referred to a number of applications seeking approval for telecommunications masts in the area, which are a source of concern to some members of the public.

However, as Councillor Michael Kilcoyne pointed out, they were prohibited from discussing them as a result of a directive issued by former Minister for the Environment Eoghan Murphy.

Speaking generally, he said broadband and mobile services in places like Turlough need to be improved, but all the options need to be looked at.

Pipes, he added, were being laid out to Turlough to get fibre optics out there.

However, the councillors could not discuss applications which have major consequences for the people they represent. The fact they could not do so was something he viewed 'very seriously'.

The cathaoirleach, Councillor Blackie Gavin, agreed it was a 'bad day' for democracy when planning was taken off the agenda at council meetings.

Councillor Cyril Burke said it was a pity the companies involved did not come before the municipal district and discuss their plans, which would have allayed a lot of the fears that have arisen.

The message should go back to them that they should have engaged with the community and the councillors.

Masts, Councillor Ger Deere said, always cause controversy. They needed clarification, for example, as to whether a development would help the people of Turlough and what the masts will service.

Were they going to service black spots in the area, he asked.

Councillor Donna Sheridan said it was regrettable that they couldn't have an open and frank discussions on the applications.

Councillors, she pointed out, did not have any power to do anything, no more than any other member of the public, other than to make submissions.

Councillor Al McDonnell was of the view that if councillors challenged the directive by way of a legal case they would win.

In response, municipal district head Mr. Iarla Moran confirmed the ministerial directive applies and individual planning applications cannot be discussed.

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