My Department published Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Telecommunications Antennae and Support Structures in 1996. The guidelines are intended to facilitate planning authorities, An Bord Pleanála, the licensed providers of mobile telecommunications services and the public by providing guidance on dealing with these developments within the planning system. The guidelines set out a locational hierarchy in relation to the siting of radio masts and advise that free-standing masts should only be located within, or in the immediate surrounds, of smaller towns or villages as a last resort. If such a location should become necessary, the masts and antennae should be designed and adapted for the specific location. In the vicinity of larger towns and in city suburbs, operators should endeavour to locate in industrial estates or in industrially zoned land.
The guidelines further advise that, only as a last resort, and if all the alternatives are unavailable or unsuitable, should free-standing masts be located in a residential area. Under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000, planning authorities are required to have regard to any Ministerial guidelines in the performance of their functions. It is my intention to further develop these guidelines to take account of the latest developments in telecommunications technology and related issues, including in particular broadband.