Dáil Éireann - Volume 653 - 24 April, 2008

Written Answers. - Planning Issues.

Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has plans to remove the exemption on planning permission for mobile phone masts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15827/08]

  Deputy John Gormley:In general, planning permission must be sought for the erection of an antenna support structure or mast. The Planning and Development Regulations 2001 set out certain exemptions in this area. These include, subject to certain conditions, works carried out by a statutory undertaker authorised to provide a telecommunications service comprising:

the attachment of additional antennae to an existing antenna support structure (subject to a maximum of 12 antennae),

the erection of an antenna support structure in place of an existing antenna support structure, and

the attachment of antennae to certain existing structures, such as lamp posts, flag poles, CCTV poles, electricity pylons and certain public or commercial buildings (other than educational facilities, child care facilities or hospitals).

The exemptions above are conditional on, among other things, the field strength of the non-ionising radiation emissions from the site not exceeding the limits specified by the Commission for Communications Regulation. In addition, in the case of the exemption for the attachment of antennae to certain existing structures, there is a requirement on the statutory undertaker to notify the planning authority, in writing, of the proposed location of any such structure at least 4 weeks before the attachment of the antennae.

The Commission for Communications Regulation is responsible for ensuring that telecommunications operators comply with their licence conditions relating to non-ionising radiation. It is also the function of the Commission to ensure that all operators are compliant with the international guidelines for general exposure to electromagnetic fields from telecommunications masts and antennae. As indicated in the reply to question No. 218 of 23 April, it is my intention to further develop the Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Telecommunications [209] Antennae and Support Structures to take account of the latest developments in telecommunications technology and related issues, including in particular broadband.

Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of the fact that An Taisce is a listed prescribed body within the planning legislation, which is normally consulted on applications which could have an impact on Ireland’s national heritage, there is a monitoring of the level of efficiency of An Tasice in dealing with the various aspects of a planning application in order that no undue delay can occur, in other words, when An Taisce would make an observation to the local council; if a representative of An Taisce is obliged to visit a site before making an observation, in order to establish the condition of the building on which it is commenting; the reason there is no time limit within which An Taisce must respond to a query from the applicant for planning permission, enabling the applicant to speedily deal with queries from their local authority; when his Department last carried out a review of the operation of this organisation to satisfy itself that it meets all the requirements of being a prescribed organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15835/08]

  Deputy John Gormley:An Taisce is an independent, voluntary, non-governmental organisation and in general terms it is a matter for such organisations to regulate their own affairs, without Government involvement. I have no role or responsibility in relation to the operation of An Taisce. Section 33 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that regulations regarding applications for permission may be made requiring, inter alia, planning authorities to notify prescribed bodies of proposed development. Article 28 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 (as amended by the Planning and Development Regulations 2006) includes An Taisce in the list of bodies prescribed for this purpose.

When submitting observations on planning applications, prescribed bodies such as An Taisce are bound by the statutory time limits set out in the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2006, and associated regulations. An Taisce is given notice of planning applications in circumstances where it appears to the planning authority that the proposed development might impact on matters such as areas of special amenity, protected structures, National Monuments and nature conservation. I will keep the regulations, including the list of prescribed bodies, under regular review, to facilitate delivery of an effective and efficient planning service leading to quality planning decisions.

Question No. 262 answered with Question No. 256.