The Planning Manager provided the principal aspects of the application for a 4G mast, with associated cabinets, to the Committee.
The main issues which had been considered in the assessment of the case were the principle of development, the impact on the character and appearance of the area, mast sharing and the potential to share existing structures, health considerations and road safety.
He explained that no third party objections had been received.
The Committee was advised that DfI Roads objected to the proposal. He drew the Committee’s attention to the Late Items pack, whereby DFI Roads had clarified their objection to the proposal, in that they felt that the column and cabinets would partially obscure the view of the existing advertising signage on the side of the shop. DfI Roads advised that it felt that drivers might avert their attention from the road ahead for a greater period than would be required if the signage were unobstructed, as they tried to interpret what the signs were advertising. Driver distraction was one of the main causes of road traffic collisions.
The Planning Manager outlined that the signage referred to by DfI Roads was, in fact, unauthorised, and that an enforcement case had been opened in respect of it. He explained that it was considered that the applicant should not be prejudiced because of unauthorised works by another party.
He explained that DfI Roads had raised no other issues and that the mast was considered acceptable in other respects. The Committee was advised that the applicant had amended the proposal in an effort to reduce the extent to which the signs were obscured, with the proposed equipment only marginally obscuring part of one of the two signs.
A Member queried what the outcome would be if the Committee was to approve the application for the mast while the unauthorised signage remained in place.
The Planning Manager advised the Members that the agent for the application was in attendance and might be better placed to advise the Committee of their timeline between the approval of a planning application and the construction work on the mast. He added that, if approval was granted to the mast, his expectation would be that Planning would promptly undertake enforcement action to remove the signs due to the potential for conflict.
A further Member queried how long the signage had been there and whether the situation could arise whereby the Committee approved the mast and associated cabinets, and that the signage were also to remain as a result of having exceeded the timeline for enforcement action to be taken. The Planning Manager confirmed to the Committee that officers had already considered that eventuality and he confirmed that the signage had not been in existence beyond the 10 year limit.
In response to a request from a Member regarding the uncertainty around the permissions required for advertisement signage, the Director of Planning confirmed that the Committee was scheduled to receive training on enforcement in March 2020 and that the issue could be covered as part of that.
The Chairperson advised the Committee that Mr. G. Lawther, DfI Roads, was in attendance. He advised the Committee that, while it was quite an unusual circumstance, the Department was attempting to provide a consistent approach in respect of advertisements. He outlined that, at present, the signs, regardless of their legal status, could be easily seen by road users, and that any obstruction to them could cause a distraction to drivers, causing them to avert their attention from the road ahead for a greater period.
The Chairperson advised the Members that Ms. H. Dallas, agent, was in attendance and she was welcomed to the meeting. She explained that the applicant was effectively being punished for somebody else’s wrongdoing. She also pointed out that only one of the signs would be obscured with the equipment. In regards to timescales, she advised the Members that the client was keen to install the equipment as quickly as possible to ensure better 4G coverage in the surrounding area but that it would likely take a few weeks for works to commence on site.
The Committee granted approval to the application and delegated power to the Director of Planning and Building Control for the final wording of the conditions.