Michael Fisher Northern Standard 21/04/16 p.14
More Monaghan Landowners
ANN MURRAY from Lemgare expressed her strong objection to the erection of giant pylons across the unspoilt drumlin landscape of Monaghan and neighbouring counties.She said the 400kV line was being foisted upon her family and neighbours. It was a situation over which they had no control and no choice. She said the line would inhibit future development of sites in the area for family members. Their property would be devalued.
There would be an impact on wildlife such as swans, buzzards, badgers, snipe and the protected marsh fritillary butterfly which was to be found in Drumgallon bog. There would be issues over rights of way. There was a health issue. Burying the power line would mean it would be safer and more acceptable to local communities and it would have a lot less impact on health, property devaluation and visual impact.
Her late parents had lived in Lisdungormal all their lives and called it a little bit of heaven here on earth. But with overhead power lines it would certainly change the lives of her family and neighbours.
She pointed out that Lemgare Rocks was a very important part of their heritage and the heritage of county Monaghan. Yet EirGrid wanted to place giant pylons on top of these rocks. Lemgare Mass Rock was also listed as an important piece of history and was an important spiritual and religious site for the community.
There were a number of abandoned mine shafts in Lemgare Rocks and throughout the local area. She wondered if EirGrid had taken this into consideration with regard to construction impacts causing possible collapses of tunnels and collapses of land.
She went on: “From our garden we can see the beautiful scenic view of the Lemgare Rocks and the natural drumlins of County Monaghan in a setting that is breathtaking – a landscape that has taken hundreds of years to mature to its current appearance.
Placing pylons in the visual foreground will detrimentally affect this tranquil setting and is totally inappropriate for a rural landscape. I also believe that these pylons will also produce noise which we do not want to be subjected to, but won’t have an option if permission is granted.”
She pointed out that the pylons would also cross over the pathway of the Monaghan Way. On a summers day you will see lots of hikers walking the route, but if this project got the go- ahead, no-one would want to walk there. She did not understand how EirGrid expected to use narrow laneways to carry construction machinery weighing up to 30 or 40 tonnes bearing a load without having a negative impact.
Multiple loads of concrete and steel would need to be reversed into these laneways and this would not be possible as the local roads were far too narrow and the laneways were only cart tracks with no foundations to withstand multiple heavy loads.
Placing pylons on the side or top of drumlins would pose a health and safety risk for farmers using farm machinery while working their farms. Coupled with this during the construction phase of the project there would be major health and safety risks both to farmers, their families, their livestock and the general public and indeed the workers erecting these pylons. The only way to eliminate such risks was to place these power lines underground.
“Eirgrid have been asked question after question over and over again and we are still waiting on answers and they have lists and lists of unanswered questions from the people of the North East. To us it looks like we are second class citizens”, she said.She called on EirGrid to provide in detail an adequate assessment of the evaluation of alternative routes for this proposal.
Mrs Murray concluded: “Why should my family and the people of County Monaghan, Meath and Cavan pay an unacceptable social and economic price for supplying power to the rest of Ireland and subject themselves to totally unacceptable potential heath risks and also to a total devaluation of our properties which we have worked hard to build and maintain. I trust that An Bord Pleanála as an independent public body will have the courage to take our observations into consideration when making a decision on this project.”
ARLENE BRENNAN from Tasson, Clontibret, said her main concern was in relation to health, as a mother of three young children. She said studies had shown that exposure to EMFs can increase the risk of childhood leukemia. This was any parent’s nightmare to have to live close to these lines with constant worrying about what might happen in the future. Each day of their lives they would have to pass under them on visits to school, football and Irish dancing. Would they now have to consider not going to social activities?
The next concern was the devaluation of their property and farm, which she and her husband worked extremely hard to build it up. In the event that their property might have to be sold, who in their right mind would buy a house or farm near power lines or even an enormous pylon? She also had concerns regarding possible planning permission which might be needed for future generations.
The visual impact of this proposal would be catastrophic, she said. “We have the most beautiful scenery in Co. Monaghan with our rolling drumlins and beautiful lakes. The visitors that call to our house are blown away by the views and beautiful scenery that they can see. If this proposed interconnector gets the go-ahead overground, it would mean that as I open my front door or even glance out my window, the first thing that will catch my eye is a massive steel structure hovering over the skyline.”
Mrs Brennan said she had concerns regarding animal health and in relation to wildlife, something that was very important in rural Ireland. All wildlife needed to be protected. She regularly saw swans flying overhead and on occasion had spotted whooper swans near the lake. It would be awful to see these birds being destroyed, she told the hearing.
She believed the area would be adversely affected by these proposed lines and pylons with regard to tourism. Visitor numbers most likely would decline, as most tourists were fishermen, who travelled by car throughout our drumlin landscape.
The proposed power lines were just passing through Co. Monaghan. Initially EirGrid had tried to fob them off that the power would be of good benefit to them. But now the truth had been unearthed that this was of no benefit to the rural tight-knit community where people actually cared about each other. In her opinion EirGrid did not care about any of them and they were being treated as second class citizens.
EirGrid did not care how this should work; they just wanted to bully their way in across ordinary, decent people who just like her were trying to get on with their lives, work hard and rear their children the best possible way they could. This line was just a supply to power Northern Ireland and the authorities there had not made provision for security of supply within their own jurisdiction, she pointed out. The bottom line was if these proposed lines had to be installed, they must be placed underground.
MATTHEW GORMAN is an agricultural contractor from Tasson. He said the line would form a horse shoe right around his family’s home. He came to the hearing to object totally against overhead lines and ugly pylons in their area on the grounds of health, visual impact, property devaluation and loss of business.
“As an agri contractor I know the lands and laneways in the area like the back of my hand. Some of the narrow laneways and gaps they propose to use for access for construction are only fit for horses and carts. We had to purchase fold-up machinery to access these lands. Has EirGrid taken into consideration the effect high powered lines have on modern machinery?
We have invested heavily in the last number of years. We use a GPS navigation system to measure our work. It will not work under high voltage lines—that’s a fact. The spinning rolls of plastic in the twin satellite wrapper generate electricity. When it comes in contact with a high voltage line it can blow the monitor in the cab €2800 to replace. There’s a brain in the balers when they operate. If there is a jump in frequency under the power lines it can cause a short, blowing the brain and possibly the monitor in the cab cost €4500 in total. In fact when you cross under a power line of smaller voltage the monitor freezes, having a massive effect on the operation.”
Mr Gorman said tractors had an electronic gearbox powered by an ECU. It was known that power lines had a big effect on them too. If this was to go ahead it would have a massive effect on them financially, not counting the downtime working around pylons and the danger to himself and the men manoeuvring around pylons on the side of a hill in the drumlins of the neighbourhood.
He went on: “I think it is desperate that EirGrid think they can just walk over communities and farmers who have been there for generations. Before you make your decision on this, Inspector, think of this going through your back garden and your community. Would you give them permission or would you stand up for family, property and neighbours? We’ll not stop until these lines are buried.”
MARTIN MCGARRELL, Cashel, Annyalla, in an individual submission said the proposed pylon development raised issues about the effects on the health of humans and animals; health and safety; the impact on tourism and the equality of treatment with other parts of the country which he believed Monaghan residents were not being shown. The county would not benefit from the development of an overhead line as there was no sub-station planned by EirGrid along the line. In the west, the story had changed regarding development of the electricity grid and an overhead line had been abandoned and there was talk of an underground route instead. All the money wasted so far in the nine years since the project was first proposed would go a long way to filling the gap between the cost of undergrounding against an overhead line.
Mr McGarrell expressed concerns regarding the impact on wildlife such as buzzards and badgers. He showed the hearing a picture of a badger hole he had taken recently close to where two pylons would be built. The grassland area close to Tasson bog was environmentally sensitive and could take years to recover if it was disturbed.
He said working under the power lines would be dangerous for farmers, such as when they were spreading slurry. The pylons would destroy the landscape and would have a profound effect on tourism. He questioned the proposed access route for construction of two of the pylons which he said would require machinery to go up a narrow lane and across a hedge and sheugh where EirGrid would have to put in a bridge. The proposed development would affect three farm businesses and he wanted to know who would compensate farmers if cattle got a disease.
NOEL MCGARRELL questioned EirGrid about what provision the company would make for him to continue farming while pylons were being constructed. He said the company had not come to him for permission to use access routes they had chosen using aerial photographs and maps.
MARK LEATHAM, owner of land beside Mr McGarrell’s, claimed that no information had been sent out by EirGrid to landowners and that they had been excluded from the consultation process. He wondered how contractors working on behalf of EirGrid would manage to get concrete that would first be offloaded into dumper trucks up to the pylon construction sites without spilling some of the load over the fields.
JOHN MCGUINNESS an 80 year-old farmer from Annagh, Annyalla said he had a 20 acre holding, spread over three-quarters of a mile. One pylon would be beside his house and another near his farmyard. He claimed EirGrid were taking land off people through the back door. He questioned how one of the towers would be built when it would have two legs built into a rock and the other two legs 15ft lower down in a bog.
CIARAN KERR, his neighbour, said the overhead line would be a monumental insanity. It had no community support, despite EirGrid’s sponsorship of events. None of their children when grown up would want to live in a house close to a power line. They would want to move elsewhere. Was EirGrid going to compensate them for that?, he wondered. They had been saying all along they wanted the line out underground but all they got was a ‘No’. Undergrounding was the future and overhead lines were the past, he said.
Mr Kerr also asked the company’s representatives to explain what would happen if ice formed on the power lines and whether the weight would bring them closer to the ground because of sagging. A simple engineering question, he said, to which he wanted to know the answer.
COLETTE MCELROY claimed that EirGrid had moved a proposed tower closer to their home in the latest proposed route compared with the previous application. She spoke about the effect the power lines and the noise they could emit would have on her son, who has autism.
EirGrid said it would arrange to bring back its environmental expert at an agreed date to answer questions that arose about the sound from power lines and the possible effects on children with autism. The company also provided some responses to invidual landowners about the proposed access routes for constructing pylons and details of machinery that would be used to carry out the work.
Robert Arthur of ESB International explained how concrete lorries would arrive at a suitable location on the public roadway close to the pylon sites. The concrete would then be offloaded into tracked machinery or a wheeled dumper truck. It would not be filled to full capacity. Shuttering would be used at the side to ensure that the concrete did not spill out when it was traversing laneways and fields. He said the type of machinery available would be able to go along narrow lanes and they would be cutting hedgerows to ground level to provide access to some sites.
EirGrid engineering consultant Tom Cannon explained that a traffic management plan would be drawn up by the contractors for the access routes. Flag men would be posted at various points to communicate with the drivers of vehicles and liaise with landowners about traffic movements. At one of the pylon sites in the area near Clontibret, approximately 33 lorry loads of concrete would be required for building the tower foundation. The deliveries would be spread out over three days.
A lawyer for EirGrid Jarlath Fitzsimons SC explained that the company’s practice had been to engage with land owners regarding access to land once planning permission had been granted. Statutory powers for access would only be used as a last resort.
Regarding a claim by Mark Leatham that there had been no contact with the landowner, Mr Fitzsimons said there was a comprehensive record of correspondence with the person who was the registered landowner, now deceased. A search of property registration the previous day showed the name of the owner had not yet been changed.
EirGrid landscape consultant Jeorg Schulze was asked to explain why pylons had been located in some cases close to houses. But he said they had were within the recommended distance from the line. He was asked about photographs that had been displayed to the inspectors showing panoramic views from the top of hills that would be spoilt by the pylons.
Mr Schulze said the photomontages he had produced were all taken from public roadways, in accordance with international guidelines. Asked about some of the residential impact assessments regarding what could be seen of the proposed power line from a particular house, he said the methodology used had been consistent both in the Republic and in the North.
Regarding compensation to farmers for any losses, William Mongey of EirGrid said there was a code of practice in place between the ESB and the IFA. This set out their policy throughout the country. The terms of compensation for farmers on whose land a pylon was being erected were described in an earlier module.
On the question of ice on power lines, Robert Arthur of EirGrid said there were no national or EU design standards requiring a particular ground clearance for ice loading. The standards were for normal weather. Ice loading had therefore not been factored into the figure for clearance of the wires above the ground.
Mr Arthur also said he was confident the type of leg extensions the ESB had for latticed steel pylons would suffice for building the tower in the area where Mr McGuinness had expressed concern. They could be used for two of the four legs on the lower side of the tower foundation.
The hearing will sit on Monday and Tuesday of next week when it will continue to hear submissions from Monaghan landowners.