This section dealt with construction, including temporary access routes
Following a request by EirGrid’s lawyer Brian Murray SC, the presiding inspector allowed a change in how the modules had operated until then. The County Monaghan Anti Pylon Committee had been due to begin Tuesday’s proceedings with comments on the plans for construction of the 299 pylons in the Republic. Robert Arthur, transmission lines manager with ESB International who are acting as consultants for EirGrid, made a presentation in which he gave details of nineteen modifications to temporary access routes for tower sites. These are in addition to six routes which had been identified by an EirGrid representative at the start of the hearing.
MODIFIED ACCESS ROUTES
For all these ‘modified access routes’ he said they would be making use of existing access onto land and no new land holdings would be involved. He said 95 landowners had made submissions by January when they had been asked to identify issues regarding temporary access routes of which there were 584. But no direct contact had been made with any land owner.
In a document produced for the inspectors Mr Arthur described what he said were mapping anomalies that had arisen primarily from discrepancies in the translation of site vantage survey records onto the Environmental Impact statement drawings. In other words, while an access route might have been identified from an existing field gate, the access route from this existing gate to a tower location was incorrectly captured on the EIS mapping.
HEARING A FARCE AND CHARADE: NEPPC
A barrister for the NEPPC Michael O’Donnell BL told the inspectors the oral hearing had turned into a farce. He said the hearing could not proceed any further and called for it to be abandoned. He claimed that a new public notice would now have to be issued about the development and this was the only appropriate manner under the planning act. The responses by Mr Arthur had been entirely inadequate and inappropriate, he said.
Counsel for the NEPPC Esmond Keane SC described some of Mr Arthur’s replies as an insult to the integrity and intelligence of every member of the public. Some replies were ‘rubbish’ and he had not given a meaningful response. Mr Keane said it appeared EirGrid had produced utterly radical changes and was planning to go through to the pylon construction points using access to private homes in a number of cases, despite the company’s own environmental guidelines. He said there were many difficulties with the planning application, including some technical drawings that had been provided for the route design plan and profile. On one of them the scale was shown as a tiny bar at the top of the page. It also left ordinary members of the public guessing where ground level was shown.
This was different he said from the detailed drawings of the proposed towers and conductors produced by ESB International for the corresponding application in Northern Ireland by the EirGrid subsidiary SONI. In Tyrone and Armagh, stone roads were proposed to be constructed on just over half the 102 tower locations.
He also questioned Mr Arthur in detail on a proposal for washing down vehicles to remove mud and organic material from vehicles exiting tower sites. The ESB International representative said it was his understanding that vehicles would be washed down before they entered the temporary work area around the pylons. “That doesn’t make sense”, Mr Keane remarked.
Padraig O’Reilly of the NEPPC said the hearing had developed into a charade second time round and called on the inspectors not to go ahead with it. Unless Bord Pleanála responded in a meaningful way then his group would not be taking any further part.
Mary Marron of CMAPC said nineteen landowners did not know where access roads would be going over their land. They had no faith in any sense of fairness if the oral hearing continued and the Monaghan group fully backed the NEPPC stance.
EirGrid lawyer Brian Murray SC said the hearing should go ahead as only 19 out of 584 access routes were involved and EirGrid could begin notifying the affected landowners during the next week. The second part had been set aside to hear from individual landowners.
Michael O’Donnell BL for the NEPPC claimed this amounted to an acknowledgement by EirGrid that the hearing could not proceed, as it would now be necessary to issue a new public notice so that all affected landowners along with neighbours and members of the public could be informed.
But Jarlath Fitzsimons SC for EirGrid pointed out that development consent was not required for access routes. These had been included in the documentation. They formed part of the project and must be looked at by the Planning Board when they were considering the totality of the application. There was no requirement for a new notification, in EirGrid’s view.
The presiding inspector said she would give a decision on whether the hearing would continue when the proceedings opened on Wednesday.