INTERCONNECTOR DAY35 MONAGHAN

EIRGRID ACCUSED OF BULLYING LOCAL PEOPLE AS INTERCONNECTOR ORAL HEARING ENDS

DAY THIRTY-FIVE

Closing submissions were made as the oral hearing entered its eleventh week

Michael Fisher  NORTHERN STANDARD  Thursday 26th May p.14

JAMES MCNALLY, Latnakelly, Anyalla, made his submission on Day 34. He said it would be an absolute travesty for the Board to approve such a poorly prepared planning application. His submission dealt with a section of the proposed route from where it would cross the border at Lemgare, near Clontibret, to Cornamucklagh. He said he had identified a number of discrepancies within the Environmental Impact Statement, but had received no credible answers.

He claimed the route selection process was flawed, by EirGrid choosing the “crooked elbow route”, through vulnerable elderly peoples’ property, adding a further 3km to the route and at least 11 or 12 additional pylons for which no rational or verifiable explanation had been provided. There would be a drastic negative impact over a considerable distance on the main tourist asset and local area of natural beauty, “The Monaghan Way” walk, he said.

Mr McNally claimed there had been avoidance of compliance with national and EU Legislation and habitats directives in relation to protected species such as the marsh fritillary butterfly and their habitat, bats, and badgers on the site of one of pylons. He claimed there was potential for the destruction of a nationally recognised site for rare orchids on the “Tassan grasslands”. He said there were three separate erroneous measurements on the distance of the proposed line from Tassan Lough national heritage area.

Regarding the presence of old mine shafts, Mr McNally claimed EirGrid had given no consideration to the risk for toxic lead, zinc, or arsenic run-off, into the ecologically sensitive Tassan Lough area and the potential for poisonous pollution to the local water table as a result of disused mine shaft collapse underneath two of the proposed pylons and other unidentified mine shafts in Lemgare and Annaglough. There was also the omission from the planning maps of a significant poultry unit in Lisdrumgormly. (EirGrid has already given its response on the mines issue, published last week).

EirGrid could not, and would not be allowed to force or coerce the people of Monaghan to accept an overhead powerline, he said. That was a fact that had been well established and emphasised by the numerous oral submissions at the hearing. No amount of posturing, or belittling, of the public submissions, would diminish the landowners’ resolve to have this powerline undergrounded. The community without access to experts, had spoken with one voice. He said it was now up to the inspectors to reflect that voice to the Board for its deliberations, however unpalatable it might seem to EirGrid.

CMAPC SUBMISSIONS

MARGARET MARRON of the County Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee said for the last nine years since the project was first announced, the process pursued by EirGrid had been very stressful, annoying, frustrating and contrary to what would be expected of a publicly funded organisation. An organisation which she said had used taxpayers’ money arbitrarily to focus exclusively on their own narrow-minded objective, namely to build this powerline overground on pylons, with absolutely no regard for what the affected communities or their political representatives thought.

From the outset, the observers and public concerned, including the landowners, did not sense that procedural justice was high on the list in the oral hearing. Time limits were imposed on public participation and there were constant reminders that the process being conducted was “a fact-finding mission”, not an oral hearing on the application in front of the Board. The landowners were totally dismayed at the inaction of the inspectors in dealing with the “errata” identified in the EIS and the proposed modifications to route access points, the developer being allowed continually to improvise and amend the planning application throughout the hearing process.

CMAPC in association with NEPPC felt there was no alternative but to withdraw from a process which, in the eyes of the landowners, was flawed and biased in favour of the developer. We witnessed the developer being permitted, without hindrance or comment by the presiding Inspectors, to use the “fact finding mission” and information gleaned from the public submissions to address the deficiencies in the EIS and planning application, she said. The public therefore had a right to ask: where was the right to “access to justice in environmental matters” as stipulated in Article 1 of the Aarhus Convention?

Ms Marron continued: “Public hearings should not facilitate a “single-sided” approach while the opposition is absent, or where the public is unaware of the matters being proposed by the developer for acceptance by the Board. The only conclusion which the public can justifiably arrive at is that natural justice is being denied, and the whole planning process is therefore undermined. It could be easily construed that this whole planning process was just another ‘let some steam off’ or ‘tick the boxes’ exercise, designed to placate the public, while meeting the ever changing and seemingly flexible criteria of planning legislation to the advantage of the developer.”

She said it was incredible for the Board to allow a developer and its richly rewarded advisors blatantly to deny in public that there would be any health or life-changing impacts on vulnerable elderly people and mothers with autistic family members. She felt it was heart rending and shocking to watch private people who felt forced to outline their own personal family circumstances in a public arena. No attempt had been made to hold any of the public hearing “in camera” or in private, which was normal practice to accommodate people when issues of a sensitive nature were being considered.

She pointed out that throughout the oral hearing the developer had been seen to request the Board to ignore the established planning standards, regulations and laws, which had been strictly adhered to and implemented by planning authorities both at local and national level, and to allow the developer to carry out pre-construction verification surveys as a solution to their failure to carry out onsite surveys. This was not a solution which could be applied in drumlin topography and it had the added danger of setting a new precedent i.e. that established planning regulations could be totally ignored in future major development proposals.

The failings of desktop studies, aerial photography and LiDAR orthophotography were emphasised throughout the oral hearing process and were shown to be totally ineffective in identifying features on the ground. Some of the proposals provided by the developer to gain access over hedgerows and drains were farcical, totally inappropriate and bordering on the ridiculous.

The suggestions for transport of vast volumes of concrete and washing down of dumpers were equally absurd. The use of mini-diggers to gain access underneath enclosed hedgerows and rock surrounded entrances was impractical, yet the authenticity of such proposals was not questioned by the inspectors in most instances. Were members of the public present at the hearing expected to believe that what was being proposed by the developer was actually feasible, she asked.

In the opinion of the CMAPC, the EIS and planning application did not provide a neutral observer with objective, concise, and adequate detailed evidence to justify the destruction of a scenic unspoilt part of the Monaghan landscape. The developer had other options such as the use of more modern HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) technology which could be put underground along existing infrastructural road networks which are owned by the state. The cumulative costs in terms of destruction of the unique drumlin landscape, the environmental and ecological destruction of protected species and habitats, the negative visual impact from a visitor and tourist perspective, the obtrusive overshadowing of national heritage assets, the increased risk to health and safety and possible fatalities underneath the proposed line, the decimation of house and land values along the alignment were some of the factors which in their view substantially outweighed the likely benefits of the proposed overhead 400kV power line.

The incompatible visual intrusion of industrial scale large steel pylon structures up to 52 metres high with the drumlin countryside would detract from the attractive rural character, appearance, amenity and setting of the landscape. It would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of County Monaghan.

CMAPC were requesting the Board to consider the recovery of costs incurred by the public in this second planning application process and asking for a mechanism to be drawn up by the Board whereby the public and their advisors were reimbursed the fees incurred in participating in the “fact finding process” which had lasted over a number of weeks and months. People had endured considerable stress and emotional torment over an extended period during this entire planning process and were entitled at least to reimbursement of the direct costs associated with the hearing.

In conclusion Ms Marron said the anti-pylon committee had absolutely no doubt about the importance of Co. Monaghan to its residents and the devastating impact EirGrid’s proposal would have on their little bit of heaven. “We believe we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we merely borrow it from our children and we want to ensure that future generations can inherit and enjoy the unique, unspoiled drumlin landscape, flora and fauna that we are fortunate enough to enjoy. We attended this hearing in good faith; we hope justice will prevail in the end and the Board will reject this planning application”, she said.

NIGEL HILLIS of the CMAPC referred to the government white paper on ‘Ireland’s Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015 – 2030’ launched in December 2015, which mentioned the need for the interconnector no less than six times. In para. 241 it stated: “The proposed North-South transmission line, which is currently in the planning process, will improve security of supply and reduce electricity transmission costs across the island”. Mr Hillis said it was implicit therein that the line would get planning permission. In his opinion this statement was tantamount to political interference and an attempt to finesse the planning process. It should be seen in that light by you and the Board, he told the presiding inspector.

The developer had stated over and over again that this project was needed for the economic development of the island of Ireland. As we have seen, it is of far greater economic importance to Northern Ireland than to us as they will supposedly run out of power in a few years’ time. So in the sense of economic development it was very much the case of the tail wagging the dog, he said.

Sustainable development in latter years had been very much driven by and embraced by climate change, he said. There had to be a compelling argument that undergrounding the project, which EirGrid’s CEO Fintan Slye had admitted was not only possible, but was also acceptable, was even more worthy of the title sustainable. It integrated and satisfied the three pillars of sustainable development: economic development, social equity and environmental protection. Undergrounding was in fact the most sustainable solution as it totally satisfied this triple bottom line of sustainability.

EirGrid had argued it would cost more to deliver the project underground and he accepted that the ‘nuts and bolts’ capital expenditure would be greater. But Mr Hillis said the affordability of undergrounding had never been examined because a full cost-benefit analysis had never been carried out.

Regarding access to lands along the route, it had been revealed that only 25% had been accessed and they did not even know where or what they are. There was no breakdown as to how much of the land accessed actually would have pylons, how much would have only the wires crossing and how much would be within 50 metres of the line, having neither pylons nor wires. Mr Hillis said in his view this was not proper planning. Indeed the withholding of such details was the antithesis of proper planning because properly informed comment could not be made by the public in the absence of this vital information.

This was now a project of common interest and the very highest standards must apply in both jurisdictions. If NIE or SONI walked into the Northern Ireland planning authorities with their application and said: we have only had access to 25% of the land for environmental surveys, I have no doubt they would be told to take the application away with them and shown the door, said Mr Hillis. In fact a “Consolidated Environmental Statement Addendum” was published in June 2015, the purpose of which was to provide the planning authorities with additional environmental information based on full access to 97% of the land in Armagh and Tyrone.

Mr Hillis noted that An Bord Pleanála had specifically requested that the NI planning documents and in particular the consolidated ES would be appended to EirGrid’s planning application. He requested that the inspectors and the Board took careful note of the huge difference in the quality of the environmental information, due mainly to the fact that 97% of land was accessed not once, but twice, in the N. Ireland section.

He then turned to his own area of expertise, namely construction, and a section in the Environmental Impact Statement regarding the requirement for temporary access tracks. It stated: “for the purposes of this appraisal, all temporary access routes have been assessed based on very wet weather conditions, expansive construction techniques with heavy machinery or equipment”.

Mr Hillis pointed out that only nineteen access points in Monaghan and Cavan and six in Meath were deemed to require temporary access tracks. This was totally ludicrous and nonsensical and was complete and utter guesswork and not evidence based on actual walk-over surveys in very wet weather, he said. He wondered what other areas of the EIS were totally deficient owing to the lack of proper on-site surveys at appropriate times of the year.

With regard to the so called mapping anomalies and incorrect capturing of roadside entrances, Mr Hillis claimed these were semantics in order to cover the fact that the roads had not been not driven on. He claimed the assessment was all done from out-of-date blurry large scale aerial maps on a computer, sitting in an office.

Again as more and more anomalies were brought to light by the landowners the machinery got smaller and smaller: mini diggers and mini piling rigs and concrete unloaded into dumpers ranging from 6 tonnes right down to 3.5 tonnes, the removal and double handling of spoil from sites, but yet the logistics for these operations had not been properly appraised at all. Mr Hillis said during the course of the hearing he had asked for a method statement to be prepared in order to understand better exactly what was entailed in this ever-changing construction methodology. But EirGrid’s barrister had immediately jumped to say that this would be going into excessive and inappropriate detail.

Mr Hillis continued: the Bob the Builder approach constantly taken by the developer (Can we fix it? Yes, we can) had no place at an oral hearing, in particular when the developer was a semi-state body which should have its planning application developed to the highest standards in all respects. The construction methodology had been totally revised in the course of the oral hearing and that section of the EIS was now, in his opinion, totally deficient and not fit for purpose.

He pointed out to the inspectors that in March 2016 an independent review group had published its organisational review of An Bord Pleanála. The review group was chaired by Gregory Jones QC who wrote in his foreword: “Planning is all about shaping the places in which we live. Planning decisions are not always easy. They involve judgements based upon balancing competing interests upon which people may have strongly held and divergent views. The issues are often complex and controversial.”

“The way in which planning decisions are taken also involves striking a balance between many factors. Some of these factors pull in different directions. We want planning decisions to be taken by people of integrity. We want decisions-takers to have fully considered the evidence and for their decisions to be soundly and carefully reasoned. We want everyone to have had a fair say.”

“Many challenges, such as, providing sufficient housing, securing sustainable economic growth, environment protection and addressing climate change, are shared by us all. In meeting these challenges countries can learn from one another. On the other hand, successful planning systems must also be fine-tuned to reflect the culture and values of the country and people they serve. One size does not fit all.”

The foreword by Mr Jones ends: “An Bord Pleanála enjoys a well-deserved high reputation for its integrity and professionalism. It is an internationally unique body playing a vital role in the planning system of Ireland. I consider it an honour and great responsibility to have been appointed to chair this Review.”

Mr Hillis addressed his closing remarks to the presiding inspector: “I don’t know, Madam Inspector, if you consider it an honour or not to have been appointed to this case or indeed if you simply just picked the short straw. But you do have a great responsibility, which cannot be abdicated, and I would ask you to dwell on those words of Gregory Jones QC. In particular, has everyone had a fair say at every stage of the process and does this application reflect the culture and values of the people that EirGrid are mandated to serve?”

“I ask you to give very careful and serious consideration if this strategic infrastructure application is indeed in accordance with proper planning and sustainable development in the linear area through which it is proposed to be sited. Whether that be the royal county of Meath, the intangible cultural areas of Loughanleagh and Muff in Cavan or the unique drumlins and scenic small lakes of Monaghan and indeed on the land of each and every landowner (big and small) on which it is proposed to be sited. I would respectfully submit to you that on the basis of the information gathered at this oral hearing it very definitely is not in accordance with proper planning and sustainable development.”

COLETTE MCELROY, Ballintra, again expressed concern about the proposed construction 475m from her house of a pylon with 400kV wires. She repeated her worries about the noise that would emanate from the lines, especially in wet weather and the impact the development would have on health.

EIRGRID have previously responded that during standard conditions there would be no significant noise emission from the overhead lines, but during wet conditions, corona noise might occur. The company said (using international standard methodologies) this noise was not predicted to cause significant impact at sensitive receptors. But for people with noise sensitivity, there was a need to consider this on a case-by-case basis.

MONAGHAN POLITICIANS

CAOIMGHÍN Ó CAOLÁIN TD, Sinn Féin deputy for Cavan-Monaghan, said the lives, hopes, plans and ambitions of people had been suspended in midair for the past nine years as a result of the application. If EirGrid thought the repeated statements that had been made favouring an underground route were a bluff, then let them call their bluff and they would see how strong the support was for undergrounding the interconnector.

He said the health risks from the proposed interconnector were real, as were the fears of local people. Over the past nine years the plans had caused stress on individuals, families and communities. He again raised concerns about the impact on the environment, on agriculture, on property and land valuation, as well as the effects it would have on tourism in the five coubnties affected.

He said his party was just one of the many political voices that had unanimously opposed the overhead lines. The EirGrid plan was also collectively challenged by the three County Councils in Monaghan, Cavan and Meath. An Bord must take note of their written and oral presentations on the project, he said. In 31 years as an elected representative he had rarely seen such a crass example of corporate bullying than had been demonstrated by EirGrid.

CLLR SEAN GILLILAND said the EirGrid application was “upside down” and it was the local community who had turned it upside down by showing its flaws especially regarding access routes and plans to build pylons on ground that EirGrid had not been able to access. He asked the inspectors and Bord Pleanála to let the people of Monaghan Cavan and Meath back to their normal lifestyle by rejecting the plan. The nature of the application was an insult to the people, to the inspectors and to the Board, he said.

Cllr Gilliland again claimed that photomontages produced by EirGrid at a number of locations were selective, using narow angle lenses so that in some cases the proposed pylons were hidden behind hedgerows, gateposts or road signs. On other occasions a wide angle lens had been used when it suited.

JOERG SCHULZE, the lanscape architect consultant for EirGrid previously pointed out in response to Cllr Gilliland and others that the photomontages had been taken at designated viewpoints on the public road. All had been produced in accordance with the relevant Landscape Institute guidelines for landscape and visual impact assessment.

NEPPC SUBMISSIONS

PADRAIG O’REILLY of the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign told the inspectors the EirGrid planning application remained invalid and should be rejected. Dr O’Reilly said multiple changes to the application that had been made during the eleven weeks oral hearing were an unacceptable waste of public monies. He said An Bord Pleanála had a duty not only to reject the application outright, but to direct that an appropriate alternative be considered for the future.

Dr O’Reilly said the application had been in the public domain for almost a year since it was submitted to An Bord Pleanála last June. In the past ten weeks the plan had been laid bare at the hearing. NEPPC which represented around 200 landowners mainly in Meath said its position in June 2015 was that this was an application so inadequate and deficient in so many aspects that it should never have been accepted as a valid application by the competent authority of An Bord Pleanála.

Now that the hearing was ending, the group’s position was that the application was even more inadequate, deficient and by default invalid than had originally been realised. The significant changes, errata, omissions and admissions made during the oral hearing were a testament to this invalidity and to the fatally flawed contents of the application. The legitimacy of the application and indeed of the applicant was therefore tarnished beyond redemption.

Dr O’Reilly said EirGrid to this day had refused to carry out the relevant analysis and costing of a site-specific underground high voltage DC cable solution along public roads. It followed from this fact that the planning application had failed to include an objective consideration of alternatives, and this fact alone should render the entire application invalid.

EirGrid was unaware of the latest publication from the European underground cable manufacturers representative body – Europacable – highlighting and proving their argument that an appropriate HVDC cable could easily be accommodated along the roads of the North-East. This publication had to be handed to EirGrid by the NEPPC.

According to the NEPPC, EirGrid’s blatant disregard for the whole process of consultation was on display at the hearing for the last ten weeks. Over fifty access route changes onto farmers’ lands were made during the hearing. No landowner notification, let alone consultation, occurred prior to any of these announcements. In fact the landowners affected by the first five announcements on Day One were never even informed until three weeks later.

There was a refusal by the company to make any attempt, such as public notices or other forms of media, to inform affected landowners promptly. There was also a refusal to put any of these changes on its website, until reluctantly consenting to do so at the very end of the hearing.

Significant changes had been made to the planning application during the course of the hearing. The Board had refused to clarify if these proposed changes were being accepted. This raised critical questions such as: why are significant changes to the planning application being entertained at this late stage? And why was there a refusal to date to clarify if the changes would be accepted?

NEPPC claimed EirGrid had taken an ‘a la carte’ approach to the planning application. For example there were now a series of options regarding access routes, guarding construction methods, concrete delivery methods, off-loading concrete, traffic movements and traffic management options, and a choice of forestry clearfelling, namely manual versus mechanical. This approach accoding to the group was contrary to all normal planning guidelines and instructions for the rest of the country.

The oral hearing process shone the spotlight on the glaring deficiencies in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The only rational conclusion that could be drawn was that the EIS was so deficient as to render it impossible to arrive at an adequate Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The NEPPC pointed out that EirGrid was unable to access at least 75% of the lands for which it intends to construct over 300 massive pylons. The Environmenal Impact Statement was thus 75% deficient in detailed site-specific information on such critical aspects as flora and fauna and soil geology. Finally, EirGrid had interviewed only 5% of the landowners on whose lands it required access and co-operation. For these reasons, Dr O’Reilly said, the Board had a duty not only to reject the application outright, but to direct that an appropriate alternative be considered for the future.

AIMÉE TREACY, Chairperson of the NEPPC, spoke on behalf of concerned residents groups in Co. Meath. She said EirGrid had given no prior notice nor had they been in consultation with landowners before they made more than fifty changes to the original planning application, most of them alternative access routes for construction. She described the application as deeply flawed and claimed it was invalid. It would never be accepted by the public, she said. Her contribution was applauded by the large crowd of observers.

Dr COLIN ANDREW of the NEPPC said the EirGrid application had been catastrophically flawed from the outset. EirGrid representatives had prevaricated and filibustered and refused to give straight ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answers to questions raised by observers. He said the application had not shown that there would be any benefit to the electricity consumer by building the interconnector.

MEATH POLITICIANS

PEADAR TÓIBÍN TD Sinn Féin deputy for Meath West said the Board now had an opportunity to put the rights of citizens and of the community at the centre of the planning process. He claimed EirGrid were stealing equity away from families by attempting to put pylons on their property.

REGINA DOHERTY TD, government Chief Whip and Fine Gael deputy for Meath East called on An Bord Pleanála when making their decision to take into account the impact the plan would have on real lives, which she said could not be underestimated. She said that EirGrid had behaved with what could only be described as arrogance, and with very little respect for the public, the affected communities and landowners.

She told the inspectors it was almost exactly ten years since she first attended a public meeting in Trim, organised by the NEPPC, for the initial proposal for the North-South interconnector. “I find it incredibly difficult to fathom, exactly how EirGrid, ten years later, have made so many last minute, but substantial, changes to their planning application, despite having had six years since their initial application to An Bord Pleanála”, she said.

Ms Doherty continued: “For the second time, we have seen a planning application from EirGrid which is inherently flawed, in the form of what one can only assume to be carefully choreographed changes to fifty access routes, which have left both members of the public, and affected landowners, completely in the dark. As a result, we have been left unable to engage with these changes. I am reliably informed that some affected landowners have not even been notified by EirGrid as to these changes, despite EirGrid stating otherwise.”

“EirGrid, has essentially robbed Meath landowners and communities from being able to partake in what should have been a thoroughly democratic and transparent public consultation. I also share the confusion which was voiced in the room as to whether the Board will be adjudicating upon this planning application either with, or without, the extensive amendments to access routes presented by EirGrid.”

Ms Doherty said in conclusion: “I again echoed the striking absence of a fully costed alternative undergrounding, or partial undergrounding, of the interconnector, which, in and of itself, most are in agreement is a much needed upgrade to our critical national infrastructure. We cannot, and will not, take EirGrid on its word, that undergrounding is not feasible for long-term viability and sustainability reasons.”

 GOVERNMENT WHITE PAPER

KEVIN BRADY, Principal Officer in charge of Strategic Energy Policy at the former Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, said a white paper on energy (Ireland’s Transition to a Low carbon Energy Future) was published in December last year, setting out a vision and framework for energy policy from 2015-2030. He said Ireland valued its relationship with Northern Ireland including energy matters and they were part of an all-island electricity market. Mr Brady said the need for an appropriate energy infrastructure including interconnectors underpinned all energy policy. But the government was not seeking to determine specific details of the interconnector scheme or to direct EirGrid about particular sites, routes or technology.

A second interconnector would fulfil the three core energy policy requirements of competitiveness, security of supply and sustainability. The proposal had been designated as an EU project of common interest. They needed to ensure there was access to wider markets and both Ireland and Northern Ireland would benefit from security of supply by having a single system across the island, Mr Brady said.

EIRGRID CLOSING SUBMISSION

BRIAN MURRAY SC for EirGrid set out the reasons why a second North-South overhead interconnector was required. It was necessary to overcome the risk of system separation and to increase transfer capacity between the two electricity transmission systems on the island. It would help achieve the objectives of improving market competition in the context of the Single Electricity Market, to support the development of renewable power generation and to improve security of supply. “These are absolutely critical objectives”, he said.

Mr Murray re-stated the support for the proposal which had been voiced by government in its white paper on energy and other key stakeholders who had made presentations at the hearing. “Garrett Blayney of the Commission for Energy Regulation said that there was a ‘clear and pressing need for the construction of the interconnector as quickly as possible and in a cost efficient manner’. Mr Owen Wilson of the Electricity Supply Association said that ‘failure or delayed delivery of the North- South Interconnector risks significant damage to Ireland’s national interest’.”

“Mr Neil Walker of IBEC gave evidence that IBEC wished to see the interconnector proceed as proposed, as it will be of real benefit for all electricity users and the wider economy. Mr Iain Hoy of the Northern Ireland CBI said that successful construction was ‘vital to protect security of existing supply, facilitate competition of SEM and reduce costs’. Similar evidence was given by Mark O’Mahoney of Chambers Ireland.”

EirGrid’s closing statement outlined the requirement for an overhead, 400 kV Alternating Current (AC) interconnector. Mr Murray said the use of Direct Current (DC) as opposed to AC current had been considered. A DC option would not provide the same level of reliability and security of supply as an AC solution. A DC solution would be suboptimal. The complexity of the system required to accommodate a DC link introduced a big risk that things could go wrong, as Project Manager Aidan Geoghegan had explained. There was no example of a comparable HVDC scheme embedded in an AC system.”

EirGrid’s view was that the proposed 1500MW capacity was required in order to provide adequate contingency in the event of a failure of the existing interconnector. It was also necessary to provide sufficient additional capacity to allow the longer term sustainable development of the network as demand for electricity grew both in the region and on the island of Ireland.

Mr Murray continued: “Cost is certainly a relevant and important consideration. EirGrid is mandated by statute to develop the national grid in a manner that is safe, secure and cost effective. A DC underground cable would cost €670m more than the proposed AC overhead line”. However, contrary to what had been said repeatedly at the hearing, cost was not the only consideration.

“It is not technically feasible to underground the entire interconnector using AC cable. This is because the distance is simply too great for an AC underground cable of the size and power carrying capacity required for this project to operate safely”, the lawyer for EirGrid explained.

Mr Murray also spoke of the environmental considerations in the proposal. “The potential for impacts on designated European sites (River Boyne and River Blackwater) have been comprehensively assessed in the Natura Impact Statement. It has been clearly established that no structures or works will be located within these or any designated European sites. Mitigation by avoidance at the design stage, in addition to effective and proven robust mitigation measures, must lead to the conclusion that there will be no impacts on the integrity of any designated Natura 2000 site.”

Regarding the level of public consultation carried out as part of the project, Mr Murray said “this project has been the subject of exhaustive consultation. It is not and never was a ‘box ticking’ exercise. It is something viewed by EirGrid as central to the future of the project.”

Mr Murray addressed the issue of temporary access routes, which had been raised on several occasions during the hearing. “The access routes do not form part of the development. Therefore, no part of the development has changed in any way in the course of the hearing. The access routes are included as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). For that reason, EirGrid has quite properly taken account of information gathered in the course of that process.”

“It is in this context that EirGrid brought a number of access routes to the attention of the attendees at the hearing in order to enable the Board to assess the modifications proposed to those access routes. These have been advised to affected landowners.”

EirGrid said it had considered all potential deviations or mapping discrepancies, whether those issues arose from the EIS access route mapping or the larger-scale landowner mapping. The review process had revisited aerial imagery, landowner access mapping and EIS figures with follow-up vantage surveys, as necessary, according to Mr Murray.

He concluded: “EirGrid submits that the second North-South interconnector is a project which is critically necessary. It is a project which we believe can only be sustainably developed in the manner proposed, and it is a project which minimises adverse impacts to the greatest extent possible.”

Referring to the court case brought by the NEPPC seeking to halt the oral hearing, Brian Murray SC said the inspectors would recall that on the eve of the hearing, some observers sought to halt it, and repeated that application before the hearing. Thus on Thursday May 12th, just as the submissions were concluding, the High Court delivered its judgement on the application for leave to seek judicial review.

The High Court determined, effectively, that the various grounds which had been raised before it were (save for PCI) in the first instance matters properly for An Bord Pleanála to determine rather than for the High Court. Mr Murray said that did not preclude a judicial review on those grounds following a decision of the Board if the application was granted. But it did mean that it was the Board which must decide those issues first, on the basis of the facts and evidence it has before it.

The application to build a 400kV overhead line with almost 300 pylons stretching 135km from Meath to Tyrone was made to the Board in June last year. It has been examined in detail at the oral hearing that began in March and lasted 35 days. It was one of the biggest ever such enquiries into what is said to be the largest single infrastructure development in the state in recent years. The inspectors will now prepare a report for the Board, which is expected to announce its decision towards the end of this year.

A preliminary hearing under the auspices of the Planning Appeals Commission in Northern Ireland will take place in Armagh next month. This first stage will discuss legal and procedural issues surrounding the SONI application for the 34km section of the interconnector with 102 pylons from Crossreagh, Co. Armagh (near Clontibret) to Turleenan near the Moy in Co. Tyrone, where a substation is due to be built.

INTERCONNECTOR DAY35 MEATH

EIRGRID ACCUSED OF BULLYING LOCAL PEOPLE AS ORAL HEARING ENDS

ANTI PYLON GROUP SAYS APPLICATION MUST BE REJECTED

 Michael Fisher    MEATH CHRONICLE  Saturday 28th May

EirGrid has been accused of bullying and of showing disregard and disrespect for landowners, famers and residents in Meath, Cavan and Monaghan affected by the company’s plan to build a second North/South electricity interconnector. Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty TD (Meath East) along with two Sinn Féin TDs were among a dozen people (including EirGrid) who made closing submissions this week to the two inspectors at an oral hearing in Carrickmacross.

The application to build a 400kV overhead line with almost 300 pylons stretching 135km from Meath to Tyrone was made to the Board in June last year. It has been examined in detail at the oral hearing that began in March and lasted 35 days. It was one of the biggest ever such enquiries into what is said to be the largest single infrastructure development in the state in recent years.

Sinn Féin Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín said the Board now had an opportunity to put the rights of citizens and of the community at the centre of the planning process. He claimed EirGrid were stealing equity away from families by attempting to put pylons on their property.

The anti-pylon group North East Pylon Pressure Campaign told the inspectors the EirGrid planning application remained invalid and should be rejected. Dr Padraig O’Reilly said multiple changes to the application that had been made during the eleven weeks oral hearing were an unacceptable waste of public monies. He said An Bord Pleanála had a duty not only to reject the application outright, but to direct that an appropriate alternative be considered for the future. The significant changes, errata, omissions and admissions made during the oral hearing were a testament to the invalidity and the fatally flawed contents of the application.

NEPPC claimed EirGrid had taken an ‘à la carte’ approach to the planning application. For example there were now a series of options regarding access routes, guarding construction methods, concrete delivery methods, off-loading concrete, traffic movements and traffic management options. This approach according to the group was contrary to all normal planning guidelines and instructions for the rest of the country.

Dr Colin Andrew of the NEPPC said the EirGrid application had been catastrophically flawed from the outset. EirGrid representatives had prevaricated and filibustered and refused to give straight ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answers to questions raised by observers. He said the application had not shown that there would be any benefit to the electricity consumer by building the interconnector.

REGINA DOHERTY TD at a previous sitting called the hearing “an absolute disgrace”. She told presiding inspector Breda Gannon there was a technical, financial and information deficit in the details provided to the Board. She requested that EirGrid should be asked to address and fix the deficit and then come back and have another debate about the plan.

Ms Doherty said the first public consultation regarding the original proposal was in 2007 and EirGrid had had several years to prepare a new application (submitted in June 2015). It was an inadequate application for the people of Meath, Cavan and Monaghan to defend and oppose the case. Although she acknowledged the need for security of electricity supply, the overhead lines and pylons proposed were not the appropriate technology.

Ms Doherty said the company had to show why other than overhead options were technically inferior and take into account the effects on land valuation and the impact on flora and fauna. The only thing they heard from EirGrid was that “we know best; the people know nothing”. There had never been a fully costed underground route either acknowledged or entertained. This was a huge flaw. EirGrid’s unwillingness on this was a disservice and an injustice to the people who would be affected. The financial and emotional costs had not been weighed up.

The Meath East TD said she was pleading with the inspectors to get an explanation why. We are arguing in the dark, she said, about the technical and financial perspective. She was asking EirGrid to go back to the drawing board and come back with what they should have done in the first place. EirGrid should put the options forward and allow a reasonable and informed debate and they should listen to the very real concerns raised by people at the hearing.

AIDAN GEOGHEGAN, EirGrid Project Manager, explained the company’s approach to the application. He said a high voltage DC underground option had greater complexity and brought greater risks. It would not do the job as well as an overhead route and was not in line with best international practice. He put the extra cost involved at €670 million.

Dr GEORGE EOGHAN from Nobber, Co. Meath, an internationally acclaimed archaeologist who excavated the passage tomb at Knowth said it would be horrifying to put a series of pylons and power lines near the historic Bronze Age site at Teltown (Tealtainn), a key cultural area. The former UCD Professor said he could not undertstand the proposal as he thought the Irish people had a greater respect for our national monuments. What was proposed amounted to a criminal action, he claimed.

He said Teltown should be left in its rural setting and kept as it is. The unspoilt rural landscape must be preserved for present and future generations. Dr Eoghan called for the EirGrid application to be rejected.

DECLAN MOORE, consultant archaeologist for EirGrid, said earlier in the hearing in the Teltown area, no known archaeological monuments would be directly, physically impacted upon by the proposed development. Because of its high archaeological potential and as previously unrecorded archaeological remains could be found during the construction of the towers, mitigation measures were recommended.

The magnitude of the impact of the proposed development on the setting of Rath Dhu, the fort thought to be the centre for the ancient Teltown funeral games, was considered to be minor with the overall significance of the impact on the setting of the monument deemed to be slight.

Although the proposed power lines were almost 700m from Teltown church, a number of the towers associated with the development would be visible as it passed to the east. The magnitude of the impact of the proposed development was found to be substantial. The overall significance of the impact on the setting of Teltown church was found to be moderate negative.

KEVIN BRADY, Principal Officer in charge of Strategic Energy Policy at the former Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, said a white paper on energy (Ireland’s Transition to a Low carbon Energy Future) was published in December last year, setting out a vision and framework for energy policy from 2015-2030. He said Ireland valued its relationship with Northern Ireland including energy matters and they were part of an all-island electricity market. Mr Brady said the need for an appropriate energy infrastructure including interconnectors underpinned all energy policy. But the government was not seeking to determine specific details of the interconnector scheme or to direct EirGrid about particular sites, routes or technology.

A second interconnector would fulfill the three core energy policy requirements of competitiveness, security of supply and sustainability. The proposal had been designated as an EU project of common interest. They needed to ensure there was access to wider markets and both Ireland and Northern Ireland would benefit from security of supply by having a single system across the island, Mr Brady said.

 EIRGRID CLOSING SUBMISSION

EirGrid as the applicant was given the last word to explain why a 400kV alternating current (AC) overhead interconnector was a key part of Ireland’s energy future. A lawyer for the company Brian Murray SC said the proposed infrastructure was necessary to overcome the risk of system separation and to increase transfer capacity between the two electricity transmission systems on the island. It was required to achieve the absolutely critical objectives of improving market competition in the context of the Single Electricity Market, to support the development of renewable power generation and to improve the security of supply.

Mr Murray said the use of Direct Current (DC) as opposed to AC current was considered. A DC option would be suboptimal as it would not provide the same level of reliability and security of supply as an AC solution. He said there was no example of a comparable HVDC scheme embedded in an AC system. Mr Murray also spoke of the environmental considerations in the proposal.

On public consultation carried out as part of the project, Mr Murray said “this project has been the subject of exhaustive consultation. It is not and never was a ‘box ticking’ exercise”.

Mr. Murray addressed the issue of temporary access routes, which was raised on several occasions during the hearing.

He said the access routes did not form part of the development. Therefore, no part of the development had changed in any way in the course of the hearing. The access routes had been included as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). For that reason, EirGrid had quite properly taken account of information gathered in the course of that process.

It was in this context, he said, that EirGrid brought a number of access routes to the attention of the attendees at the hearing in order to enable the Board to assess the modifications proposed to those access routes. These had been advised to the affected landowners.

Mr Murray concluded “EirGrid submits that the second North-South Interconnector is a project which is critically necessary. It is a project which we believe can only be sustainably developed in the manner proposed, and it is a project which minimises adverse impacts to the greatest extent possible.”

The inspectors will now prepare a report for the Board, which is expected to announce its decision later this year.

INTERCONNECTOR DAY35 CAVAN

IMPACT ON CO. CAVAN DISCUSSED AS INTERCONNECTOR ORAL HEARING ENDS

 EIRGRID ACCUSED OF BULLYING LOCAL PEOPLE

 Michael Fisher  ANGLO-CELT Wednesday 25th May

EirGrid has been accused of bullying and of showing disregard and disrespect for people in Cavan, Monaghan and Meath affected by the company’s plan to build an overhead high voltage North/South electricity interconnector. Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty TD (Meath East) along with two Sinn Féin TDs were among those who made closing submissions on Monday to the two inspectors at an oral hearing in Carrickmacross. Ms Doherty called on An Bord Pleanála when making their decision to take into account the impact the plan would have on real lives, which she said could not be underestimated.

The application to build a 400kV overhead line with almost 300 pylons stretching 135km from Meath through part of Cavan and Monahan to Armagh and Tyrone was made eleven months ago. It has been examined in detail at the oral hearing that began in March and lasted 35 days. It was one of the biggest ever such enquiries into what is said to be the largest single infrastructure development in the state in recent years.

Sinn Féin Cavan/Monaghan Deputy Caoimghín Ó Caoláin said the lives, hopes, plans and ambitions of people had been suspended in midair for the past nine years as a result of the application. If EirGrid thought the repeated statements that had been made favouring an underground route were a bluff, then let them call their bluff and they would see how strong the support was for undergrounding the interconnector.

The anti-pylon group North East Pylon Pressure Campaign representing 200 landowners in Cavan and Meath told the inspectors the EirGrid planning application remained invalid and should be rejected. Dr Padraig O’Reilly said multiple changes to the application that had been made during the eleven weeks oral hearing were an unacceptable waste of public monies. He said An Bord Pleanála had a duty not only to reject the application outright, but to direct that an appropriate alternative be considered for the future.

NEPPC claimed EirGrid had taken an ‘à la carte’ approach to the planning application. For example there were now a series of options regarding access routes, guarding construction methods, concrete delivery methods, off-loading of concrete, traffic movements and traffic management options. This approach according to the group was contrary to all normal planning guidelines and instructions for the rest of the country.

EFFECT ON KINGSCOURT

PAT FARRELLY of Kingscourt GAA Club explained that the EirGrid proposal for pylons and overhead lines would enter the parish at one end on the Kingscourt to Kells Road and exit on the Shercock Road end, heading towards Co. Monaghan. Seven kilometres of the route would traverse across nine public roads in total, used every day by residents and people in their cars, criss-crossing that area. It was a big concern and it was the one topic that was being talked about locally.

Mr Farrelly said there were concerns about the health of players, club members and the public. EirGrid would try to tell them there was no health risk because of the lines, but their worries remained and they did not want the interconnector to go ahead overground. They knew there was an alternative, namely underground, and that it was viable. EirGrid had admitted it could be done that way and if told by the politicians to do so then they would. Addressing the presiding inspector Breda Gannon, Mr Farrelly said she had heard all their concerns over the last ten weeks and there were very few people in favour of the current proposal.

Mr Farrelly said EirGrid were putting their sponsorship of the GAA under-21 football championship and the International Rules series under the category of ‘community gain’. He wanted to know how much they were spending on this. He said that as a sporting body they were not in favour of overhead lines and the only way forward was to put them underground.

PHIL SMITH, Vice-President of Cavan GAA Board, said he wished to make it perfectly clear they were not in any way opposed to progress. Where there was an alternative between an overhead and an underground line then they favoured the underground option. In addition to Kingscourt GAA Club, two other clubs in Bailieborough and Shercock would be affected and they were very much opposed to having an overhead line.

DAMIEN GREHAN, a consultant for EirGrid, said the proposed line would come within 3.25km of Kingscourt GAA Club. ROBERT ARTHUR of ESB International acknowledged that the route of the interconnector would traverse several roads in the Kingscourt area. But he said it was important to maximise the distances from one-off housing in the area west of the town.

KEVIN BRADY, Principal Officer in charge of Strategic Energy Policy at the former Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, said a white paper on energy (Ireland’s Transition to a Low carbon Energy Future) was published in December last year. Mr Brady said the government was not seeking to determine specific details of the interconnector scheme or to direct EirGrid about particular sites, routes or technology.

A second interconnector would fulfil the three core energy policy requirements of competitiveness, security of supply and sustainability. The proposal had been designated as an EU project of common interest. They needed to ensure there was access to wider markets and both Ireland and Northern Ireland would benefit from security of supply by having a single system across the island, Mr Brady said.

EIRGRID CLOSING SUBMISSION

Brian Murray SC for EirGrid said the proposed infrastructure was necessary to overcome the risk of system separation and to increase transfer capacity between the two electricity transmission systems on the island. It was required to achieve the absolutely critical objectives of improving market competition in the context of the Single Electricity Market, to support the development of renewable power generation and to improve the security of supply.

Mr Murray said the use of Direct Current (DC) as opposed to AC current was considered. A DC option would be suboptimal as it would not provide the same level of reliability and security of supply as an AC solution. He said there was no example of a comparable HVDC scheme embedded in an AC system. Mr Murray also spoke of the environmental considerations in the proposal.

On public consultation carried out as part of the project, Mr Murray said “this project has been the subject of exhaustive consultation. It is not and never was a ‘box ticking’ exercise”.

The lawyer for the company addressed the issue of temporary access routes, which had been raised on several occasions during the hearing. He said the access routes did not form part of the development. Therefore, no part of the development had changed in any way in the course of the hearing. The access routes had been included as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). For that reason, EirGrid had quite properly taken account of information gathered in the course of that process.

It was in this context, he said, that EirGrid brought a number of access routes to the attention of the attendees at the hearing in order to enable the Board to assess the modifications proposed to those access routes. These had been advised to the affected landowners.

Mr Murray concluded “EirGrid submits that the second North-South Interconnector is a project which is critically necessary. It is a project which we believe can only be sustainably developed in the manner proposed, and it is a project which minimises adverse impacts to the greatest extent possible.”

The inspectors will now prepare a report for the Board, which is expected to announce its decision later this year.

INTERCONNECTOR DAY35

EIRGRID DEFENDS INTERCONNECTOR PLAN AS ORAL HEARING ENDS

Michael Fisher

EirGrid has been accused of bullying and of showing disregard and disrespect for landowners, famers and residents in Meath, Cavan and Monaghan affected by the company’s plan to build a second North/South electricity interconnector. Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty TD (Meath East) along with two Sinn Féin TDs were among a dozen people (including EirGrid) who made closing submissions to the two inspectors at an oral hearing in Carrickmacross. Ms Doherty called on An Bord Pleanála when making their decision to take into account the impact the plan would have on real lives, which she said could not be underestimated.

The application to build a 400kV overhead line with almost 300 pylons stretching 135km from Meath to Tyrone was made to the Board in June last year. It has been examined in detail at the oral hearing that began in March and lasted 35 days. It was one of the biggest ever such enquiries into what is said to be the largest single infrastructure development in the state in recent years.

Sinn Féin Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín said the Board now had an opportunity to put the rights of citizens and of the community at the centre of the planning process. He claimed EirGrid were stealing equity away from families by attempting to put pylons on their property.

His party colleague from Cavan/Monaghan Caoimghín Ó Caoláin TD said the lives, hopes, plans and ambitions of people had been suspended in midair for the past nine years as a result of the application. If EirGrid thought the repeated statements that had been made favouring an underground route were a bluff, then let them call their bluff and they would see how strong the support was for undergrounding the interconnector.

The anti-pylon group North East Pylon Pressure Campaign told the inspectors the EirGrid planning application remained invalid and should be rejected. Dr Padraig O’Reilly said multiple changes to the application that had been made during the eleven weeks oral hearing were an unacceptable waste of public monies. He said An Bord Pleanála had a duty not only to reject the application outright, but to direct that an appropriate alternative be considered for the future.

Now that the hearing was ending, the group’s position was that the application was even more inadequate, deficient and by default invalid than had originally been realised in June 2015. The significant changes, errata, omissions and admissions made during the oral hearing were a testament to this invalidity and to the fatally flawed contents of the application. The legitimacy of the application and indeed of the applicant was therefore tarnished beyond redemption.

NEPPC claimed EirGrid had taken an ‘à la carte’ approach to the planning application. For example there were now a series of options regarding access routes, guarding construction methods, concrete delivery methods, off-loading of concrete, traffic movements and traffic management options. This approach according to the group was contrary to all normal planning guidelines and instructions for the rest of the country.

Margaret Marron of the County Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee claimed EirGrid, a semi-state company, had used taxpayers’ money arbitrarily to focus exclusively on their own narrow-minded objective, which was to build the power line overground on pylons, with absolutely no regard for what the affected communities or their political representatives though.

Ms Marron said to allow a developer and its richly rewarded advisors to deny blatantly in public there would be any health or life-changing impacts on vulnerable elderly people and mothers with autistic family members was incredible. It was heart- rending she said to watch private people who felt forced to outline their own personal family circumstances in a public arena; it was shocking to those present. No attempt was made to hold any of the public hearing “in camera” or in private, which is normal practice to accommodate people when issues of a sensitive nature were being considered.

Nigel Hillis of CMAPC submitted that undergrounding was the most sustainable solution. The developer had argued that it would cost more to deliver the project underground and his group accepted that the ‘nuts and bolts’ capital expenditure would be greater. But the affordability of undergrounding had never been examined, he said, because a full cost-benefit analysis had never been carried out.

Mr Hillis said the construction methodology for the pylons and lines had been totally revised in the course of the oral hearing. That section of the Environmental Impact Statement was now, in his opinion, totally deficient and not fit for purpose. He went on: “the Bob the Builder approach constantly taken by the developer: Can we fix it? Yes, we can, has no place at an oral hearing and in particular when the developer is a semi-state body who should have its planning application developed to the highest standards in all respects.”

Dr Colin Andrew of the NEPPC said the EirGrid application had been catastrophically flawed from the outset. EirGrid representatives had prevaricated and filibustered and refused to give straight ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answers to questions raised by observers. He said the application had not shown that there would be any benefit to the electricity consumer by building the interconnector.

Kevin Brady, Principal Officer in charge of Strategic Energy Policy at the former Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, said a white paper on energy (Ireland’s Transition to a Low carbon Energy Future) was published in December last year, setting out a vision and framework for energy policy from 2015-2030. He said Ireland valued its relationship with Northern Ireland including energy matters and they were part of an all-island electricity market. Mr Brady said the need for an appropriate energy infrastructure including interconnectors underpinned all energy policy. But the government was not seeking to determine specific details of the interconnector scheme or to direct EirGrid about particular sites, routes or technology.

A second interconnector would fulfill the three core energy policy requirements of competitiveness, security of supply and sustainability. The proposal had been designated as an EU project of common interest. They needed to ensure there was access to wider markets and both Ireland and Northern Ireland would benefit from security of supply by having a single system across the island, Mr Brady said.

EIRGRID CLOSING SUBMISSION

EirGrid as the applicant was given the last word to explain why a 400kV alternating current (AC) overhead interconnector was a key part of Ireland’s energy future. A lawyer for the company Brian Murray SC said the proposed infrastructure was necessary to overcome the risk of system separation and to increase transfer capacity between the two electricity transmission systems on the island. It was required to achieve the absolutely critical objectives of improving market competition in the context of the Single Electricity Market, to support the development of renewable power generation and to improve the security of supply.

Mr Murray said the use of Direct Current (DC) as opposed to AC current was considered. A DC option would be suboptimal as it would not provide the same level of reliability and security of supply as an AC solution. He said there was no example of a comparable HVDC scheme embedded in an AC system. Mr Murray also spoke of the environmental considerations in the proposal.

On public consultation carried out as part of the project, Mr Murray said “this project has been the subject of exhaustive consultation. It is not and never was a ‘box ticking’ exercise”. Mr. Murray addressed the issue of temporary access routes, which was raised on several occasions during the hearing.

He said the access routes did not form part of the development. Therefore, no part of the development had changed in any way in the course of the hearing. The access routes had been included as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). For that reason, EirGrid had quite properly taken account of information gathered in the course of that process.

It was in this context, he said, that EirGrid brought a number of access routes to the attention of the attendees at the hearing in order to enable the Board to assess the modifications proposed to those access routes. These had been advised to the affected landowners.

Mr Murray concluded “EirGrid submits that the second North-South Interconnector is a project which is critically necessary. It is a project which we believe can only be sustainably developed in the manner proposed, and it is a project which minimises adverse impacts to the greatest extent possible.”

The inspectors will now prepare a report for the Board, which is expected to announce its decision later this year.

 

 

WOMBLE TIL I DIE

On the night AFC Wimbledon have qualified for the play-off final at Wembley against Plymouth on May 30th for promotion to League One of the English football league, I was delighted to watch this video by KICK which turned up on the Guardian Sport Network. It contains interesting archive pictures of Plough Lane.

Accrington Stanley 2  AFC Wimbledon 2 after extra time (aggregate 2-3).

INTERCONNECTOR DAY34

GOVERNMENT CHIEF WHIP IN SCATHING ATTACK ON EIRGRID INTERCONNECTOR APPLICATION

Regina Doherty TD brands pylons plan “an absolute disgrace”

DAY THIRTY-FOUR

This section concerned issues raised by landowners and groups from Co. Monaghan, Cavan and Meath

REGINA DOHERTY TD, Meath East and government Chief Whip, told the Bord Pleanála oral hearing in Carrickmacross that EirGrid’s planning application for the high voltage North/South electricity interconnector was “an absolute disgrace”. She told presiding inspector Breda Gannon there was a technical, financial and information deficit in the details provided to the Board. She requested that EirGrid should be asked to address and fix the deficit and then come back and have another debate about the plan.

EirGrid is proposing to erect 399 pylons along a 137km route from an existing substation at Woodland near Batterstown in Co. Meath through part of Co. Cavan and into Co. Monaghan near Lough Egish. The line would cross the border at Lemgare near Clontibret, extend into Co. Armagh and to a new substation at Turleenan near the Moy in Co. Tyrone.

Ms Doherty said the first public consultation regarding the original proposal was in 2007 and EirGrid had had several years to prepare a new application (submitted in June 2015). It was an inadequate application for the people of Meath, Cavan and Monaghan to defend and oppose the case. Although she acknowledged the need for security of electricity supply, the overhead lines and pylons proposed were not the appropriate technology.

She highlighted the fact that EirGrid had made over fifty changes to proposed access routes or minor map modifications during the course of the ten-week hearing. She believed this showed a lack of courtesy and respect both for the people affected and for Bord Pleanála. Details of the proposed changes had only been put on the EirGrid website last week. Some of the maps they were using were ten years or more out of date and did not show new housing development.

She claimed the environmental impact statement was completely inadequate for a planning application of this size. There was also inadequate communication about EirGrid’s intentions. EirGrid said they wanted the most technically advanced and most robust solution for the transmission line. From the beginning they insisted there were absolutely no other options than an overhead line, but now they were accepting that undergrounding was technically feasible.

Ms Doherty said the company had to show why other than overhead options were technically inferior and take into account the effects on land valuation and the impact on flora and fauna. The only thing they heard from EirGrid was that “we know best; the people know nothing”. There had never been a fully costed underground route either acknowledged or entertained. This was a huge flaw. EirGrid’s unwillingness on this was a disservice and an injustice to the people who would be affected. The financial and emotional costs had not been weighed up.

The Meath East TD said she was pleading with the inspectors to get an explanation why. We are arguing in the dark, she said, about the technical and financial perspective. She was asking EirGrid to go back to the drawing board and come back with what they should have done in the first place. EirGrid should put the options forward and allow a reasonable and informed debate and they should listen to the very real concerns raised by people at the hearing.

AIDAN GEOGHEGAN, EirGrid Project Manager, explained the company’s approach to the application. He said a high voltage DC underground option had greater complexity and brought greater risks. It would not do the job as well as an overhead route and was not in line with best international practice. He put the extra cost involved at €670 million.

Dr GEORGE EOGHAN from Nobber, Co. Meath, an internationally acclaimed archaeologist who excavated the passage tomb at Knowth said it would be horrifying to put a series of pylons and power lines near the historic Bronze Age site at Teltown (Tealtainn), a key cultural area. The former UCD Professor said he could not undertstand the proposal as he thought the Irish people had a greater respect for our national monuments. What was proposed amounted to a criminal action, he claimed.

He said Teltown should be left in its rural setting and kept as it is. The unspoilt rural landscape must be preserved for present and future generations. Dr Eoghan called for the EirGrid application to be rejected.

DECLAN MOORE, consultant archaeologist for EirGrid, said earlier in the hearing in the Teltown area, no known archaeological monuments would be directly, physically impacted upon by the proposed development. Because of its high archaeological potential and as previously unrecorded archaeological remains could be found during the construction of the towers, mitigation measures were recommended.

The magnitude of the impact of the proposed development on the setting of Rath Dhu, the fort thought to be the centre for the ancient Teltown funeral games, was considered to be minor with the overall significance of the impact on the setting of the monument deemed to be slight.

Although the proposed power lines were almost 700m from Teltown church, a number of the towers associated with the development would be visible as it passed to the east. The magnitude of the impact of the proposed development was found to be substantial. The overall significance of the impact on the setting of Teltown church was found to be moderate negative.

EirGrid is suggesting that a licensed archaeologist supervises any excavations in advance of the construction of towers, thereby ensuring the early identification of archaeological deposits and minimal loss to the archaeological record. The National Monuments Service of the DAHG and the National Museum of Ireland would be consulted immediately should archaeology be discovered. An archaeologist would also monitor site access and construction works.

OLD MINE WORKINGS HIGHLIGHTED

MAURICE MCADAM, Lisdrumgormley, posed a series of questions to EirGrid, in particular about old mine workings in the Clontibret area. He then introduced DR COLIN ANDREW, a geologist from Co. Meath and member of the NEPPC.

COLIN ANDREW reported as follows: the northernmost portion of the proposed overhead high voltage cable alignment between proposed pylons 102 and 117 transectED an area of extensive ancient and old mining activity, principally for lead. This activity dated from the medieval period but reached a maximum in the mid-19th century when a number of mines were active.

The mines were extensive although production was relatively limited due to the nature of the mineralisation forming rich pipes within the fault-vein structures. With respect to the proposed development many collapses into mine voids have been recorded over recent years both in the vicinity of known shafts and lateral workings but also in areas with no recorded mining activity. In this respect a number of proposed pylon placements are located in hazardous areas in close proximity to recent collapses. Dr Andrew said he believed the total absence of any assessment or even acknowledgement of these issues was a fundamental omission within the EIS.

Construction of such a development involves numerous access routes for vehicles up to 38 tonnes gross axle weight along tracks overlying open mine voids and the potential for danger to life and limb is paramount. The EIS is fundamentally deficient in not addressing such issues as not only access is compromised but the siting of a number of the proposed pylons has not been properly evaluated.

Evaluation should have comprised field examination of the sites, detailed mapping of the mine sites by an experienced industrial archaeologist and mining geologist followed by ground penetrating radar or similar geophysical technique to ascertain the presence of subjacent mine voids. In the view of Dr Andrew, without such the EIS remained fundamentally inadequate.

In similar terrains, in Cornwall, for example, many sudden collapses into old mine voids are commonplace and it is a normal requirement of planning from Cornwall County Council to have a full comprehensive search on mine records and ground survey completed as part of any planning application.

Location: The mines were mostly grouped round the village of Milltown, within the eastern border of Co. Monaghan, and several disused shafts bearing the names of separate townlands may occur on this long lode. The Tassan-Tonagh-Coolartragh lode is thus traceable for 3km and workings may be expected anywhere along this feature. GSI Memoir 58 (1914) notes that “…numerous small disused shafts and workings occur along the line of the lode between Tassan and Coolartragh”.

Several of the smaller ventures, not touched on here, are mentioned in Memoir 59, ‘pp. 28-9 (1877). The remains of ancient workings are seen at a point between the Lemgare and Annaglogh shafts. A ruined engine-house marks the site of a lode of galena (lead) said to range north and south, with an easterly hade, in Croaghan, south of Tassan Lough; and in Glare Oghill, at the edge of the map, nearly due west of Castleblayney, a similar lode was at one time worked. Some of the shafts here remain partly open. A lode of lead is reported to have been discovered in Grig, north-east of the last named townland, and to have been also struck near the railway bridge, south of this.

Details of individual mines: Coolartragh Mines (3)

History: According to the GSI 6” Sheet and MSS notes, about seven shafts were opened on the vein that traverses the townland from south to north. Griffith (1861, p. 150) is the authority for identifying Coolartragh as also being known as the Bond Mine. The UK Department of Trade & Industry and the BGS .possesses a plan, and a section down to 35 fathoms, showing four levels, dated 1892 (AM 2986).

The Bond Mine operated by the Consolidated Mines of Bond, Lemgare and Lisdrumgormel (sic) Company of Liverpool under Captain John Skimming was reported in 1846 (Mining Journal) to have been developed at the 18, 25 and 30 fathom levels where the vein was large and productive with bunches of rich ore and that the vein had been explored for nearly “1 mile of length”

The engine shaft is said to have been vertical and cut the lode at 30 fathoms, and a large and valuable amount of ore is supposed to remain yet un-extracted. This lode is considered to be identical with the main Tassan Vein. It has an underlie to the east at 60o, and its course appears to have been proved beyond doubt both north and south of the main sinking. The matrix here is chiefly quartz, with some calcite; and a considerable quantity of sphalerite is said to occur along with the lead.

Tonagh Mine: History

Two small shafts were sunk close to the boundary of Coolartragh and Tonagh townlands. And some minor production ensued between 1859-61 when the vein showed a band of galena underlying to the east within a zone of brecciated slates above a footwall of Tertiary basalt. A landowner (Michael Hughes) proposed to dewater the shafts in Tonagh in 1953 but nothing came of this. No production is detailed.

Lemgare Mine: History

In the townland of Lemgare an adit and three shafts along a strike length of 50 fathoms (95m) were sunk to a depth of 18 fathoms (35m) below adit on a nearly vertical vein by the Consolidated Mines of Bond, Lemgare and Lisdrumgormel (sic) Company of Liverpool under Captain John Skimming commencing in July 1846. The vein is supposed to be the same as that at Annaglogh, located approximately 1km to the SSE, which are marked on the MS. 6″ map of the Geological Survey. Griffith (1861, p. 150) gives Lemgare as a worked mine. Mem. 59, p. 28, regards it as on the continuation of the Annaglogh lode.

The Lemgare vein has been profitably worked at Annaglogh. It hades easterly at around 75o, and is joined from the north by another, also hading easterly at around 60o. A shaft at the junction reached rich ore at 17 fathoms (~30m). The lode is supposed to be thrown northwards by a cross-course about 1.2m wide which exists as indicated on the map, as all trace of it is lost farther to the east, it is believed to have been proved 150m farther north.

Lemgare Mine was re-opened by Billiton NV in the early 1950’s as part of prospecting activities. The adit extended along an unmineralized fault zone for approximately 110m, being connected to surface by a short (4m) ventilation shaft near the portal. Upon entering sandstone wall-rocks the fault became mineralized and some stoping was seen to surface (20m) near the end of the drive which extended but was inaccessible but almost certainly extends below two surface shaft collapse located above. An inclined shaft or winze to indeterminate depth (presumably to 18 fathoms (~35m) was also located along the course of the adit with a 10cm rib of galena on the fault plane.

Annaglogh Mine: History

This mine is known to have been in production in 1852 and features in the list of mines between 1860-65 when it was being worked by the Consolidated Mines of Bond, Lemgare and Lisdrumgormel (sic) Company of Liverpool under Captain John Skimming. During this period approximately 300-400 tonnes of ore was reported as being raised annually. The 1870 MSS 6″ map of the Geological Survey gives details of four shafts one of which was sunk as much as 40 fathoms (~75m) on the vein, and a pumping engine house. The sites of several of these, along with the base of the engine house and its associated chimney are still visible. The only output from Annaglogh is recorded in 1852 when 310 tons of lead was produced and “some lead sold” in 1853.

Tassan mine: History

This was probably the most important mine of the district. The townland adjoins that of Tonagh on the south, and the vein is the same as that which passes northward into Coolartragh. The mine was commenced in the late 1840’s by Joseph Backhouse as the Tassan Mining Company 1844-56, but the most significant period of working was by the Castleblayney Mining Company from 1856-61 and from 1862-5; but it seems to have been closed in 1867. There are five shafts marked on the 1857 6” OSI map although little trace remains of them at the present time.

 Lisdrumgormley mine: History

The 6″ Geological Survey MSS map marks two veins continuing northward from those of Annaglogh, and the western of these was reached at no great depth in Lisdrumgormley, just east of a basaltic dyke that is probably correlated with this fault / vein. In the north of the townland, close against the Armagh border, “Lead Mine” is engraved on the 6” Ordnance sheet. Lisdrumgormley was also under exploration by the Farney Development Company in 1922.

The lode in Lisdrumgormley is reported, on contemporary authority, to be still rich in argentiferous galena, embedded in a matrix of quartz and carbonate of lime in the deepest workings. so far as it is known, from 2 to 9 feet. This lode, which comes to the surface at the main working, is said to have realized a large profit at depths not exceeding 25 fathoms. A shaft located some 250m SSE along strike of the vein is reported to have attained 60m depth and returned 50 tonnes of lead concentrates.

Extent of mine workings: Because of a combination of the age of the mine workings for lead in this area coupled with the short-lived nature of the various formalised cost-book companies that operated the mines, the records of the extent of workings are obscure. Most of the cost-book companies were not floated on the London Stock Exchange as was common practice at this time and, as a result, did not return reports that were then published in the contemporary Mining Journal.

Dr Andrew claimed that in their assessment of the extent and impact of mine workings EirGrid had solely relied upon the information received from the GSI and EPA and did not appear to have conducted any detailed research. The GSI have admitted in correspondence concerning the extent of mine workings in the area that they “..do not necessarily capture the full extent of a feature, particularly if it is inaccessible and impractical..” and thus do not have information detailing the extent of mine workings such as shafts, trial pits, adits, stoped sections of veins and any lateral workings thereon.

It is also worth noting that the other statutory body, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) have also confirmed (to Maurice McAdam) that “As per your complaint to the EPA, in relation to the EPA Inventory of Disused Mine Sites 2009, this national inventory taken does not account of every mine site but is risk based taken to define the mine waste/spoil sites, the waste geo-chemistry and to account for Public Health and Safety.”

In the opinion of Dr Andrew, it appears that the two statutory bodies are unaware of the locations of mine workings and their attendant risk and EirGrid have not conducted any form of site investigation.

Recent collapses: The submitted EIS makes absolutely no reference to the two recorded occurrences of mine workings collapse in both Annaglogh and Lisdrumgormley in 2010 and 2012 respectively in any part of EirGrid’s application or supporting documents it has submitted with its application.

Risk assessment: Collapse of old mine workings results from a number of factors. Chief amongst these is heavy rainfall causing loading of the surficial materials covering the voids and resultant gravitational collapse. Ravelling from the walls of the void spaces also is a contributory factor.

What is without doubt is that the principal cause is instability either from gradational collapse below the surficial plug or by surface loading which can be triggered even by the weight of an animal. Quite clearly 38 tonne trucks and excavators are very likely to cause additional collapses not only of shafts but also of stopes and other lateral workings and trials. Specific issues are detailed in the table below:

Proposed Pylon 102

(NI Section)

Located on the northerly strike extension of the Coolartragh veins system. Potential for lateral development under this area.

 

Proposed Pylon 103 Access route crosses known mine workings in close proximity to shaft on Coolartragh East Vein and the location of an ancient lead mine.

 

Proposed Pylon 108 Located directly above adit level of Lemgare Mine, stoping to surface seen in underground surveys. Small shafts and stopes to surface seen at surface but ignored by EirGrid.

 

Proposed Pylon 109 Located within 50m of historic collapses, access route crosses these temporarily filled collapses. Land owner aware of multiple collapses over past 50 years.   Two veins worked at depth at Annaglogh Mine extend under this location from Junction Shaft sunk to the 40 fathom level (~80m below surface).

The proposed access route directly crosses the location of a former collapsed shaft that was infilled by the landowner some 30 years ago. The modified access routes dated 29th April 2016 are absurd in that they now directly cross the location of a collapsed mine working.

 

Proposed Pylon 110 No history of collapse in this area to date but lies in close proximity to known mine workings at the Annaglogh Mine.

Access routes to proposed pylon site and guarding areas criss-cross an area of extensive mining operations, known shafts and lateral workings.

 

Proposed Pylon 116 Located over the northern section of the Tassan Mine.   Two parallel veins known to have been mined down to the 80 fathom level (~150m below surface).   Likelihood of collapse of near surface stopes. Shafts on eastern vein lie both north and south of the proposed alignment.

Access routes cross an area of possible lateral underground workings.

 

 Conclusions: The EirGrid EIS is particularly remiss in failing to locate, identify and assess mine workings. The failure to recognise and assess the potential for collapse of old mine workings is a major and fundamental omission. The failure almost certainly stems from a lack of understanding of such issues, a failure to examine the sites in the field, and a total lack of site investigation of any form whatsoever other than a desk-top study. The absence of any form of appropriate assessment is total folly and is clearly unacceptable. Dr Andrew told the inspectors that permitting the project could not be granted until such on site assessment and study had been completed to an acceptable professional standard.

EIRGRID RESPONSE

EirGrid stood by the accuracy and extent of the environmental impact statement and the basis on which they had carried out the research. They said none of the new information would change their assessment which had been done with the help of GSI information and LiDAR technology to provided details of the topography.

The assessment they had already made of the Lemgare area which showed the old mine workings extending away from the area where the pylons would be going. In their response document published in December 2015 the company noted that a number of submissions raised issues in respect of the potential of the proposed development to impact on specific mines. These issues were addressed as follows:-

Tassan Mine: Details of Tassan Mine are included in the EIS. The historical mine is located 170m south east of Tower 117. The mine area of Tassan CGS was delineated by the GSI and incorporates the locations of shafts, other surface features and historical maps and data. There are no historical records that would suggest mine shafts at Tower 116 or 117. All historical data available from the GSI was assessed. The boundaries of the CGS are shown on Figure 7.17 in Volume 3C. Distances to the outlined boundary of Tassan CGS are detailed in Chapter 7, Volume 3C.

Lemgare Mine: The Lemgare mines were avoided by the route selection process, with proposed mitigation measures identified regarding Lemgare County Geological Site (CGS). Historical maps available from the GSI indicate that the underground works are contained within the boundaries of the Lemgare County Geological Site. The boundaries of the Lemgare CGS are shown on Figure 7.17 in Volume 3C. Distances from the proposed works to the boundary of Lemgare CGS are detailed in Chapter 7, Volume 3C.

Lisdrumgromly and Annaglogh Mines: Lisdrumgromly and Annaglogh Mines are located over 200m from the proposed interconnector. OSI and GSI records show the locations of shafts and surface workings for Lisdrumgromly and Annaglogh. Based on a review of the data there is no evidence of underground workings along the proposed line or at tower bases. All historical data available from the GSI was evaluated. The location of ‘collapsed shafts’ are mapped on the OSI historical maps. No evidence of mine shafts at the tower bases are presented in the submission. Based on a review of the data there is no evidence of underground workings along the proposed line or at tower bases.

The Co. Monaghan Geological Site Report on Lemgare says the site was part of a working farm and the fields immediately surrounding the mine dumps were used for grazing cattle. Many of the minerals that had been recorded there could only be studied satisfactorily with specialist equipment and the site was thus likely to be of interest mainly to scientists. Therefore it did not require further promotion. The presence of rare wulfenite meant Lemgare warranted County Geological Site status.

TOIRLEACH GOURLEY, senior planner with Monaghan County Council, returned to the hearing to give his assessment of a number of eight proposed access points on public roads for pylon construction work that had been proposed by EirGrid. Mr Gourley said he had visited the areas with a colleague from the Roads Section and they continued to have serious concern about the proposed parking of concrete lorries for offloading material onto dumper trucks to be taken to the pylon sites.

TOM CANNON a transport consultant from Tobin engineers replied for EirGrid. He explained with a series of slides how there would be room at the relevant places to park a lorry while allowing a vehicle to pass. He said traffic management operatives would be on duty at these locations. He also said short sections of road might have to be closed to local traffic for periods of around ten minutes while offloading took place. Mr Gourley replied that if roads were to be closed then Monaghan County Council would require three months’ advance notice in order to allow an assessment to be carried out.

MARY MARRON, Lough Egish, told the inspectors she had tried five times to ring the low-call number that EirGrid had provided for information about the project. All she got in reply was that it was the wrong number and she asked the Board to take that into account when considering the level of consultation.

CLOSING SUBMISSIONS

Closing submissions in the hearing will be made next Monday 23rd May on day 35 at the start of the eleventh week. JAMES MCNALLY, Latnakelly, Annyalla, made his closing submission last week and details will be included in day 35 coverage.

 

INTERCONNECTOR DAY33

DAY THIRTY-THREE

This section concerned landowners and groups in Co. Monaghan, Co. Cavan and Co. Meath

PHIL CONNOLLY, Carrickamore, Carrickmacross, raised a number of issues about the consultation process on behalf of Margaret Marron of the Co. Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee.

He claimed that some landowners were not aware of changes that had been made to proposed access routes for pylon construction. He wondered how relevant all the environmental impact statement information was.

Mr Connolly said that since the preferred route had been announced by EirGrid, economic growth in that corridor was reduced. The proposal had had a socio-economic impact that could be clearly evaluated by looking at the number of residential dwellings within 100m of the indicative route of the power lines.

This was a reference to a submission he made the previous week when he quoted EirGrid’s own figures from a route constraints report in 2007. It stated that route corridor A had 34 residencies within 100m; route B had 36 residencies within 100m; route C had 40 residencies within 100m. All three corridors in 2007 showed nearly the exact same number of dwellings within 100m per 1km of route.

Fast forward to the re-evaluation report 2011. Taking into account that all three corridors had extended in length due to no substation in Kingscourt, we can conservatively estimate that four of these added dwellings per line are based in this extension. Route A has 41 dwellings, less 4 in Kingscourt, 8.8% increase. Route B has 52 dwellings, less 4, a 33.4% increase. Route C has 55 dwellings, less 4, a 27.5% increase. Allowing that the corridors overlap for the last section, the figures are far more alarming, according to Mr Connolly. He said they showed clearly a total stagnation in growth in dwellings close to the line, while the other possible route corridors had increased in growth dramatically.

Mr Connolly questioned EirGrid over the health and safety provisions for machinery such as teleporters operating in the vicinity of power lines. He also wanted to know why the impact on the town of Shercock had not been mentioned in the planning documentation and enquired how far the GAA Club would be from the proposed lines.

JARLATH FITZSIMONS SC for EirGrid told the presiding inspector the hearing so far had proved very worthwhile in answering the genuine queries of landowners. Regarding the choice of route corridor he said there was no sterilisation of land within the proposed alignment. Regarding land valuation and reported difficulties in selling properties close to overhead lines, Mr Fitzsimons referred to the Corr/Walsh report commissioned by EirGrid that was based on a survey of estate agents (Feb 2016). He said there was no statistical evidence of a relationship between a 400kV power line and the ability to sell a property or the price to be achieved. He said he would rebut the proposition that there would be a devaluation of land if Bord Pleanála granted approval for the line.

JOERG SCHULZE, landscape architect for EirGrid, said the line route had been chosen to minimise environmental impacts. Corridor A had come out as the most suitable option when the assessment was made.

PAT FARRELLY of Kingscourt GAA Club explained that the EirGrid proposal for pylons and overhead lines would enter the parish at one end on the Kingscourt to Kells Road and exit on the Shercock Road end, heading towards Co. Monaghan. Seven kilometres of the route would traverse across nine public roads in total, used every day by residents and people in their cars, criss-crossing that area. It was a big concern and it was the one topic that was being talked about locally.

Mr Farrelly said there were concerns about the health of players, club members and the public. EirGrid would try to tell them there was no health risk because of the lines, but their worries remained and they did not want the interconnector to go ahead overground. They knew there was an alternative, namely underground, and that it was viable. EirGrid had admitted it could be done that way and if told by the politicians to do so then they would.

Addressing the presiding inspector Breda Gannon, Mr Farrelly said she had heard all their concerns over the last ten weeks and there were very few people in favour of the current proposal. Groups such as his were not extremists, he said. They had tried to be sensible and they did not want to stop progress. Where there was a better way, it should be considered, he said.

He again raised the problems that would be encountered by pupils at Laragh Muff National School because the lines would come within 342m of the school playing fields. Many of the pupils and staff were associated with Kingscourt GAA Club. He also raised the objections of the Handball and Racquet Club. Mr Farrelly said the scouts would also be affected because the lines went close to the LoughanLeagh beauty spot. This was where they went for their outdoor activities to enjoy the scenery and peacefulness.

Mr Farrelly said EirGrid were putting their sponsorship of the GAA under-21 football championship and the International Rules series under the category of ‘community gain’. He wanted to know how much they were spending on this. He said that as a sporting body they were not in favour of overhead lines and the only way forward was to put them underground.

PHIL SMITH, Vice-President of Cavan GAA Board, said he wished to make it perfectly clear they were not in any way opposed to progress. Where there was an alternative between an overhead and an underground line then they favoured the underground option. In addition to Kingscourt GAA Club, two other clubs in Bailieborough and Shercock would be affected and they were very much opposed to having an overhead line.

DAMIEN GREHAN, a consultant for EirGrid, said the proposed line would come within 3.25km of Kingscourt GAA Club. ROBERT ARTHUR of ESB International acknowledged that the route of the interconnector would traverse several roads in the Kingscourt area. But he said it was important to maximise the distances from one-off housing in the area west of the town.

The relevant sections of the environmental impact statement supplied by EirGrid state: “At Tower 207 in the townland of Scalkill, the alignment turns south-west and proceeds to Tower 212 in the townland of Lisagoan crossing on its path two minor roads and crossing the main R162 (Kingscourt–Shercock) road approximately 5.5km north-west of Kingscourt and the Cavan-Monaghan county boundary, in order to circumvent the lakes west of the line route located at Northlands. The line route is also at a distance (approximately 1.27km) from the wetland complex of Greaghlone Lough in this area.

At Tower 212, in the townland of Lisagoan the line route crosses several minor roads, in order to avoid the ribbon development that emanates from the town of Kingscourt and the townland of Drumiller. At Tower 217, in the townland of Corlea (Clankee By), the alignment heads in a southerly direction and avoids the higher contours to the west at Cornamagh and the ribbon development on the lower slopes located to the west of the alignment and continues to Tower 224 in the townland of Dingin.

At Tower 224, in the townland of Dingin, the alignment traverses to the south-west to cross the R165 Kingscourt-Bailieborough road (approximately 3.2km west of Kingscourt), in order to avoid the ribbon development which extends from Kingscourt and to keep to the lower slopes of Lough-an-Lea, while maintaining a sufficient distance from Dύn-an-Rί Forest Park. The alignment route crosses several minor roads and passes to the north of Muff Lough.

At Tower 228 in the townland of Cordoagh (ED Enniskeen), the alignment proceeds in a southerly direction crossing some minor roads and avoiding Lough-an–Lea to the west and Ervey Lough to the east to Tower 237 in the townland of Clonturkan, County Cavan. The alignment crosses the existing Flagford–Louth 220 kV Line and follows this trajectory in order to avoid the ribbon development extending from Kingscourt.

From Tower 237 in the townland of Clonturkan, County Cavan, the line route proceeds in an easterly direction in the area of the boundary between counties Cavan and Meath, avoiding an ecologically sensitive area to the north, and a number of national monuments to the south. Between Tower 237 and Tower 242 in the townland of Tullyweel, the line route crosses two local roads.  

The line route turns south-east at Tower 242 avoiding viewpoint VP21 (as detailed in the Meath County Development Plan (CDP)). The line route then crosses the R164 Regional Road between Towers 244 and 245, before turning south at Tower 245 in the townland of Lislea to avoid the railway line to the east, a cluster of national monuments and Newcastle Lough (which has recorded Whooper swan activity). Between Towers 245 and 248, the line route travels south south-east crossing agricultural land and small sections of forestry.”

RON PAGAN, Ardbraccan, Co. Meath, said they were unconvinced by EirGrid’s arguments for an overhead line. Mr Pagan, a retired chartered engineer, said in their area there were at least 32 households that would be within 100m of the centre of the power lines and he found that appalling.

ROISIN PAGAN, his wife, made an emotional appeal to the inspectors. She said their lives would be dramatically affected if the proposal went ahead. Please get EirGrid to listen to the people as no-one wanted these pylons, she said. This is not about reports and statistics, it’s about people’s lives, she said. Turning to face the EirGrid team, she concluded: “you guys are highly intelligent: please listen and try to show a different way”. She wondered how EirGrid thought they were going to get onto the land if they received planning permission.

RONNIE MCGRANE, Kells, a retired electrical contractor, has a holiday home near the entrance to LoughanLeagh forest, where he also operates a licensed telecommunications system for two-way radio and broadband. He asked EirGrid if they could assure him that the pylons and power lines would not interfere with his equipment. He claimed a nearby 220kV line that would cross under the North/South interconnector sometimes produced a hissing effect when passing beneath the cables. Mr McGrane said he favoured a sea path for the project from Dublin Bay to Belfast Lough, instead of overhead lines.

JARLATH FITZSIMONS SC for EirGrid told Mr McGrane it was not predicted there would be any impact on the operation of telecommunications equipment on his property. It was not necessary for EirGrid to notify COMREG about the proposal. He said a full suite of information had been provided by the company to designated bodies prescribed by the Board, such as the Irish Aviation Authority, which had expressed no concerns. He said a sub-sea route for the interconnector (as a number of other submissions had suggested) had been considered and was ruled out.

Mr McGrane was informed that there would be no significant impact on his property and overall the panoramic views from the house of five counties would remain as they were. He requested a drawing of what the cross-over point between the 400kV line and the 220kV Flagford to Louth line at Carrowreagh, Co. Cavan would look like and the amount of clearance between the cables. But EirGrid did not provide this on the day.

CHARLIE MULLIGAN, Clogher, Lough Egish, spoke about the choice of an amended access route through his land for pylon construction. He put it on the record that it was never his intention the alternative route he had suggested would in any way impact on a neighbour’s house by bringing traffic near it. He regretted that this would impact on his neighbour and it had not been his objective to cause any distress. He told the inspectors he had already stated clearly that he was totally opposed to the overhead lines and preferred an underground solution.

JARLATH FITZSIMONS SC for EirGrid explained how in the 75% of cases where the company had not been granted access, a suite of tools had been used by their consultants to study the land. This included LiDAR (3D laser scanning technology), which gave profile drawings of line clearance and illustrated the topography of any area. High quality aerial photography and Google maps were also used to plot access routes. LiDAR images were able to provide consultant archaeologist Declan Moore with details of a subterranean artefact, without having to access the land in question.

In response to NIGEL HILLIS of the County Monaghan Anti-Pylon committee, Mr Fitzsimons said development consent was not required regarding access routes. These routes had been identified and were put forward for the Board’s consideration in their overall assessment of the project. He said landowners had pointed out problems and had identified alternatives. He told the inspectors it was proposed to submit these (believed to number around 35) in addition to the original proposals. So in some areas TWO routes would be set out on maps for the Board as part of the environmental impact statement.

The access routes are marked with yellow dashes; the amended ones are outlined with purple dashes. This means both the yellow and purple routes, where applicable, will be put forward as the EIS must remain as when it was submitted in June 2015.