An Bord Pleanála has again reversed a decision by Kerry County Council and allowed Towercom Ltd to retain a 35-metre mast on Knockanore mountain, near Ballybunion.
The council has been refusing planning permission for the retention of masts under its policy not to allow such masts within 1km of houses and residential buildings due to health concerns.
The Knockanore mast is about 600 metres from the nearest house.
Hugh Mannion, an inspector with the planning board, dismissed the council’s reservations about possible dangers of non-ionising radiation and said their stance is contrary to national policy on telecommunications.
Towercom submitted that it was strategically important to retain the mast for emergency services, adding its loss would impair telecommunications in the area.
An Taisce told the planning board the mast was one of a number in the area, describing it as visible and bulky and “by far the worst in the cluster”.
An Taisce said the option of sharing the facility with other operators, as well as screening, had not been fully considered by Towercom.
While Mr Mannion acknowledged the mast was visible over a wide area, he said he felt the alternative might be several masts at more dispersed locations with consequent visual intrusion.
He also pointed to the lack of natural vegetation at the site and its exposed, windswept nature. It was unlikely a substantial impro-vement could be achieved by screening, he said.
Mr Mannion recommended the appeal be allowed, with conditions. The mast will remain in place for a further five years.
Under the conditions, Towercom has been directed to allow other operators to use the mast and to make a financial contribution to the council towards the cost of infrastructure.