Bord Pleanála member voted to overturn planning refusal for antennae near her home 

Bord Pleanála member voted to overturn planning refusal for antennae near her home 

Last December Michelle Fagan, a member of the planning board since 2018, voted to accept an appeal by Cignal Infrastructure Limited to construct the two antennae at the belltower of Garland House in Rathmines.

A member of An Bord Pleanála (ABP) voted to overturn a planning refusal to allow the construction of communications antennae and a dish on top of a protected structure near her own home.

Last December Michelle Fagan, a member of the planning board since 2018, voted along with deputy chair Paul Hyde to accept an appeal by Cignal Infrastructure Limited to construct the two antennae at the belltower of Garland House, a former church built in 1923, in Rathmines, Dublin.

Ms Fagan lives less than 450m from the proposed construction site, which now comprises office accommodation.

Under the An Bord Pleanála code of conduct, board members shall “not knowingly” engage with an appeal case concerning their “own immediate neighbourhood”.

The definition of immediate neighbourhood is not given — however, in the case of England’s Planning Inspectorate the distance limit for “proximity preclusions” is set at 5km.

Neither Ms Fagan nor An Bord Pleanála had commented on the matter at the time of publication.

The Ditch previously reported that Ms Fagan has similarly voted on at least three planning applications in the Rathmines area since joining An Bord Pleanála, with one of those developments being situated less than 400 metres from her home.

Application refused by council

The Cignal application had initially been refused by Dublin City Council (DCC) in May of 2021 due to its “configuration, position on the rooftop, and overall materials” being “visually obtrusive” and likely to have “a negative visual impact”.

The council’s decision added that approval would “be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.

A number of local objections lodged to DCC at the time noted that the proposed antennae would be “very large and excessive” in terms of their “visual impact on the rear of the church”.

In overruling DCC, Mr Hyde and Ms Fagan agreed with their own planning inspector, who stated that the proposed development would not seriously injure either the visual or residential amenities nor the architectural heritage of the area.

The inspector also stated erroneously that Garland House is not on the list of protected structures — in fact, it had been added to that list the month before the inspector delivered her recommendation in October 2021.

The Irish Examiner revealed last week that Ms Fagan and Mr Hyde have dominated ABP votes on communications masts and antennae over the past two years, ruling on nearly 80 of 100 such applications between them.

During that time Mr Hyde voted to overturn refusal recommendations by planning inspectors in 31 of 36 mast applications — roughly eight times the average for such an action to be taken.

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