INTERCONNECTOR DAY26

DAY TWENTY-SIX

This section involved landowners and groups from Co. Monaghan

SEAN DUFFY, Drumguillew Lower, was represented by his mother Mary Duffy as he is in Australia at the moment. He had inherited ten acres of land from his uncle in February 2011. There had been no contact with EirGrid about their plans to build two pylons and a power line near the dwelling house. Mrs Duffy said there was also a plan to put two pylons on her daughter’s land at Drumhowan, one of which EirGrid had now moved across a ditch onto a neighbour’s land.

NIGEL HILLIS of the County Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee said there could have been another technical solution without moving that particular pylon. He claimed that EirGrid had been in breach of the Aarhus Convention on public consultation and EU directives. The proposed line design stretched back to 2011 and was followed with a preferred solution report and then a final line design that the EirGrid board had approved according to the Chief Executive. The company had years to get it right and after all this they had decided to move eleven of the pylons on the proposed route when the planning application was submitted last year.

BRENDAN MARKEY, Greagh, was represented by Sean Gilliland. He did not want pylons on his land. Cllr Gilliland said the proposed access lane for construction of two pylons on Mr Markey’s land was only 8’6” wide with a water pipe below it and two other pipes alongside. It would most certainly be damaged if heavy machinery used it.

The lane was very special as there were visible badger tracks and badger setts that were monitored by the Department of Agriculture and NPWS. The power line would be a ruination of the rural countryside and way of life.

GABRIEL MOONEY, Greagh, was joined by his father Bernard in making a submission. They had huge concerns over the project. They lived 200m up a lane that EirGrid planned to use to access one of the pylons for construction. The lane was in frequent use by family members daily and they would be disrupted if heavy machinery was going to use the lane. He asked who would be responsible if there was an accident on the lane, or if it gave way under the heavy loads that would have to pass along it. Could EirGrid guarantee the safety of his young children while the proposed work was taking place? He also wondered if the company could guarantee that they would not in their lifetime experience any health effects from living beside the proposed high voltage lines.

He expressed concern that their homes and properties would be devalued and worth next to nothing in future. Nobody would want to live near these grotesque pylons, he said. The lines would destroy totally the aesthetic appearance of their locality.

He concluded: “We are all proud Irish people, proud of our democracy. We have the power to elect our public representatives; we have the power to decide if there are changes to our Constitution. We express our democratic right by voting and we accept the outcome. The people of Monaghan, Cavan and Meath had voted unanimously against this overhead power line. EirGrid should accept this fact and scrap this proposed project”.

LEO MARRON, Greagh, said the pylons would be an attack on our freedom to live according to our own traditions and own choices, currently and into the future. We could no longer sell our property or hand it onto the next generation. We could not develop it as a viable enterprise and make more of it as previous generations did.

I left my parcel of land with an estate agent in February and told him to be open and honest with all inquiries. The land was advertised locally and internationally but there have been no offers. Such is the mistrust that EirGrid have instilled among the people of our community that I took the land off the market as we feared EirGrid would use the opportunity to walk the land and gather information for their own purposes. I have no doubt that the threat of this pylon has affected the value of my land and other properties in the local area.

I face particular challenges with a disability that means I must meticulously plan my work days and weeks ahead and ensure I have adequate support to carry out my daily duties. EirGrid interference would interrupt this planning., becoming another obstacle I could live without and making farming almost impossible for the duration of the construction. The two months stated by EirGrid are only the tip of the iceberg though, as there will be continuous interference by EirGrid for a further three years and ongoing into the future. This will undoubtedly be the end of my way of life.

I have worked for years to increase the productivity of my land, digging shores to dry the land. Still it is soft in places and heavy construction would damage these land drains and undo the work I have laboured so hard over. Can EirGrid inform us here as to the weight of the pylons and measures they would take to mitigate the damage caused to my land? Or are EirGrid even aware of these factors? It appears that EirGrid have not properly assessed the land and have no idea really as to the possible consequences of building a huge pylon in my field. Also I wonder are EirGrid aware of the dangerous blind spot that exists on this apparently straight stretch of road? All households here are aware of how devious this stretch of road is. The heavy construction vehicles and increased traffic that EirGrid will bring will compound factors and make a fatal accident all the more likely. EirGrid have boasted of their strict timetabling of construction. This evidently could place pressure on contractors to reach deadlines and take short cuts on health and safety: which should come first? With so many homes surrounding the construction site I do not trust EirGrid to put the interests of families and children first. Rather it seems that profit and scheduling comes before the people and community. I wish to draw to your attention an article in the Farmers Journal dated October 11th 2014 which described the ESBs laissez-faire approach to pole removal that damaged a contractor’s harvester and left a hole in his pocket. It seems to me that EirGrid’s approach to planning and execution of these pylons will be no better and could leave many farmers out of out of pocket due to similar damage caused. EirGrid have forfeited all confidence in their abilities and no farmer would agree to allow them onto their land to destroy it.

The field on which EirGrid plan to construct this pylon is flat and poses a real and significant eyesore to a number of neighbours. It is cruel and unfair that their homes too should suffer the indignation of this towering pylon and the loss of value to their homes. To EirGrid this is all business and nothing personal but to us it’s very personal.

I also have more land in Ardragh where I am being affected by construction between pylons 190 and 191. The shared lane serves many farms and homes and as such heavy vehicles would pose a significant risk. Damage to the surface of the lane would be inevitable and have unfair and lasting consequences for those who rely on it. Furthermore there is a well that is under the lane which has historical significance that leads back to the famine era and has been minded for generations. I have an uncle who will turn 100 this year and used this well for drinking water from a child. Heavy vehicles would destroy this important piece of heritage and history and I doubt EirGrid are even aware of its existence. There are in fact several other errors in the proposed plan I could point out to EirGrid, but I would feel foolish pointing them out to such educated men.

ANN MCARDLE, Brackley, was represented by her son COLM MCARDLE. He said they were not happy about having pylons on their land. In their original application EirGrid had proposed an access route for construction that went through an embankment onto the pylon field. The access was then changed through their back yard. They wondered how this would affect the milking of cows and moving them around the farm.

BYRNE FAMILY, Brackley

Briege Byrne said the family home sits between proposed Pylon 162 and Pylon 163, The overhead power lines would run for 80 metres along our land and right over our sheep’s house. The overhead power lines will be 62.5 metres from our family home. This is the only land parcel we own and it is home to our livestock.

EirGrid wants to access our land to facilitate stringing of the overhead power line – they do not have our permission to enter our land.

EirGrid wants to use our private entrance to access our land with large, heavy construction machinery. They will have great difficulty navigating in a slope, off a busy main road, on a bad bend; onto wet boggy soft ground all year round which floods regularly.

Quote from EirGrid:

“The 0.7 hectare land parcel with beef enterprise is located in Brackley Co. Monaghan. The sensitivity is medium. There is a yard/farm building located approximately 30 meters north west of the proposed overhead power lines”.

The land parcel is not 0.7 of a hectare; it is only 0.5 of a hectare of land. The farmyard/building is not 30 metres from the overhead power lines it is right under the power lines.

EirGrid propose that they will need 65 metres of an access track to facilitate stringing of overhead Power lines at a loss of 10% of the land parcel. “Pre-mitigation the impact is moderate adverse”.

We use our field by split grazing, so the field is divided in half. The half EirGrid wants to access has our sheep’s house – which will have the overhead power line running over it – and is used to summer graze if possible as this is when it is at its driest, although our sheep will be rotated on it all year round as required.

“The construction disturbance impact is short term (generally less than 12 months) the magnitude of construction impact is low and the significance is slight adverse”.

How can EirGrid say it is short term? This is our home, our lives, our animals; the impact has already commenced and shall be engraved on the land for an eternity. EirGrid want access for 12 months. How are we going to split graze? How are we going to feed our sheep? How are we going to access our sheep’s house? To say the impact is low is hurtful and demoralising.

EirGrid say “There will be a low level of disturbance”.

This is not a true reflection. There will be a high level of disturbance. When EirGrid are finished we will be unable to use our field, we will be unable to feed our sheep, we will be unable to house our sheep and after 12 months of large heavy construction machinery, the land will be more like a building site than a grazing field – it will be ruined and we will be left with our home 62.5 metres from the overhead power line with a view of pylon 162, Pylon 163 and Pylon 164. We have 80 metres of overhead power line on our land, land we cannot use, left sterile due to the health risks this poses on us and our animals along with the constant humming and cracking sound of the overhead power lines. We see all of this as a high level of disturbance.

“There is a high impact on farm buildings and their potential expansion due to location of power lines 30 metres from yard”.

Our farm building is our sheep’s house and it is right under the power lines, this means our sheep cannot be housed in this area. Where shall we house our sheep as we only have a small parcel of land, which means we cannot build on our land.

“The impact magnitude is high and the significance of the residual impact is moderate adverse”. This overhead power line will have an immediate and detrimental impact on our health and the value of our home and land. EirGrid say this will have a low environmental impact. How can they say this? They have not stood on the land and how can they say what the environmental impact an overhead power line will have?

“Hedges land trees may be cut back within 30 metres of the overhead power lines”.

What about the hedgerow on our land? The power lines shall be running over this hedgerow. The hedgerow is home to wildlife and offers a feeding ground for many lives such as birds and bats. The river beside our land runs alongside this hedgerow. What about all the fish and creatures in the water? How can anyone say that there will be a low environmental impact when hedgerows shall be removed and rivers disturbed?

As well as the ground animals and birds we must also look up and realise that we are also on the flight path for swans and ducks. Just over the field from our home lies Barraghy Lake. The swans and ducks fly back and forth on a regular basis. These wires shall be in their direct flight pathway. We are worried that these birds may end up in the wires.

In short this is our field gone, our land gone, no grazing for our sheep, no roaming for our hens, the hedges gone: which has a knock-on effect – no birds, bats rabbits to name a few – the river that runs along the hedge tampered with and in effect gone.

What about our health and the health of our livestock? Our sheep are so close to this overhead power line. How can we be sure they will be safe? Could this cause the sheep to miscarry, have lambs born with deformities? Also our hens roam freely through the field. What about their wellbeing? They supply the family home with eggs – will we be able to keep our hens? Will we be able to consume their eggs? Our spring well is 50 feet from the overhead power lines – can we still use this water? These questions highlight that the environmental risk is high rather than low.

My child visits the family home on a regular basis. How can I visit the family home knowing that I run the risk of putting my child’s health at risk for e.g. leukaemia and other disorders? I cannot do this to the next generation.We should be protecting them not putting them at risk. Life is precious and should be cherished not put at risk because EirGrid want to erect pylons.

Along with my child’s physical wellbeing I am also extremely concerned about the physical and mental wellbeing of my parents, they have reared their children and put a lot of time and love into building a safe environment for me and my siblings and for us to be able to bring our children back to the family home, but this will be shattered. From the day that talk of this interconnection commenced it has had an impact on our emotional wellbeing. We are upset and stressed due to the possible erection of this interconnection. We will have nothing left by the time EirGrid are finished. We also need to be aware that there is a physical strain placed on every single person who is here today and is affected by EirGrid’s proposals. We can see the physical strain on people. We also need to be mindful of the mental strain this project is placing on people; this is very concerning as we sit and listen to families plead for their lands to be left untouched. We are getting a taste of how people feel as we listen to the stories of how a power line can rip through a person and put them under emotional and physical strain. Is it worth putting people under this pressure and strain? The answer is NO!

PEADAR CONNOLLY, Chairman of Lough Egish Community Development Company Ltd that runs the Food Park said overhead pylons would have a detrimental effect on the wellbeing of all in the Aughnamullen community. He explained the history of the food park which he said provided food to people from all corners of the island, from meat to dairy to eggs and dry foods. He pointed out that he had difficulty accessing any environmental impact statement on EirGrid’s web page.

(This was immediately checked by the company’s representatives who told the inspectors all the relevant EIS information had been put on a dedicated website set up at the request of An Bord Pleanála and which was found to be working properly).

Mr Connolly said he was extremely concerned about the adverse effect the overhead power line would have on the food park and the livelihood of local people. EirGrid, he claimed, had failed to demonstrate the safety distance for the food industry and employees regarding EMF emissions from 400kV power lines. He feared that a stigma might arise from the location of their food products not far from the high voltage cables and once it arose then they would be out of business. It was a risk he was not willing or able to take. He urged An Bord to ignore any pressures that might be exerted on them to fast-track the proposed project and to be mindful that the health and wellbeing of all citizens in the affected areas and generations to come were in their hands.

INA and CHARLES HEGAN, Brackley, made a submission in which they said the EirGrid plan would have a number of disastrous consequences for their farm, house, family and livestock. One pylon would be close to the front of their house. There would be a severe visual impact. There would be an immediate and detrimental effect on the value of their farm. The overhead cables would create a substantial risk to using farm machinery. There had been no proper consultation with them, she said.

DOMINIC HARTE, Brackley, also expressed concern about devaluation of his home and property and the visual impact of the pylons. He also questioned whether sufficient provision had been made for flight diverters on the power lines to take account of the flight paths of wildlife at two local lakes. He also enquired about the procedure that would be used for inspecting the power lines, if they got approval.

MICHAEL HALPIN, Barraghy, was represented by Briege Byrne. My home sits between pylons 163 and 164. The power line will run on the edge of my land. EirGrid propose to access pylon 164 by using a lane which is owned by my neighbours Mr and Mrs Charlie Hagan. This lane runs parallel with my own driveway and on past the front door of my house into Mr Hagan’s field where pylon 164 is to be erected. This lane is not capable of taking heavy farm machinery as it is soft ground that runs along a river. From the picture you will see that the edge of the lane which is not defined by a hedgerow is about 4 feet from my front door. This would pose a serious problem for EirGrid. How do they propose to turn in off the road on a bend, go up a soft narrow lane 4 foot from my front door with heavy construction machinery? It is not possible. The machinery would be rubbing off my porch, I would not be fit to use my front doorway. EirGrid will need to cut down my mature trees which are very close to my house. These mature trees are home to a lot of wildlife and bats. This is not acceptable.

Over the last number of years I have spent a lot of time and money updating my house and land. These pylons and overhead power lines are so close to my home that both my home and my land would be worthless, devaluing everything I have worked for. It would leave living in my own home very hard due to the impact on my health and wellbeing.

PAURIC CONNELLY, Barraghy, was represented by Sean Gilliland. EirGrid had not convinced him that there was no medically adverse activity arising from the pylons. The proposed line would be a desecration of the landscape.

Cllr Gilliland asked if EirGrid could inform the hearing how much his land would be devalued if the project was allowed. He had very real concerns and wanted to know if he would get planning permission for any sites to provide new homes if they were near the power lines.

EILEEN MCGUIGAN a neighbour said her home was her castle. She had six grandchildren and was concerned about possible health hazards if a pylon was built nearby. “No pylons—NO-NO-NO!” she stressed. She was applauded as she concluded.

PHIL GEOGHEGAN, Drumillard, was represented by Sean Gilliland. Mr Geoghegan shared access to his holding with seven other people. It was a private lane and they had all contributed to tarring it and contributing to the upkeep. If damage was caused by contractors’ traffic using the lane for access to a pylon construction site, he wanted to know who would pay for it? Mr Geoghegan was totally and utterly opposed to the proposed pylon on his land. Cllr Gilliland pointed out that there were already three power lines crossing his farm and now there could be seven or eight. There would not be much room left on his land holding. He also mentioned that problems had arisen regarding compensation at another infrastructure development in the county.

PATRICK MARRON, was also represented by Sean Gilliland.

Mr Marron, a farmer, had not received any information to date from EirGrid regarding a plan to use part of his land as a guarding location for one of the pylons. He was anxious about this and wondered how EirGrid had managed to put in a planning application without conculting the person who owned the ground for the planned tower. Cllr Gilliland also pointed out that the proposed access route belonged to someone else, a Mr Connolly (see below).

ROBERT ARTHUR of ESB International said in many instances access to pylons went across third party land. He would endeavour to get the details regarding that particular holding.

SEAN GILLILAND pointed out that this landowner was known to EirGrid as maps had been sent to him regarding the previous application. So the company was very well aware of the owner. There had been correspondence with Mr Marron in December 2013, so this was not a case where EirGrid was not aware of who owned the parcels of land.

PATRICK CONNOLLY, Tooa, a landowner, told the hearing he had not received any communication from EirGrid regarding a proposed access route to pylon 170 on the land of the Ward family. When this divergence of opinion became clear a coffee break was called by the presiding inspector.

Upon investigation, EirGrid lawyer Jarlath Fitzsimons said a letter had been sent by tracked mail to Damian and Patrick Connolly on 29th May 2015. It was delivered on to an address at Tooey, Shantonagh, Castleblayney at 9:31am on 4th June 2015, according to a postal track and trace.

Cllr Gilliland said it was strange that a separate letter had not gone out to the two names on the holding, if two parties were involved. He continued to press for information about the proposed access routes that were being used to pylons. One of them, he said, was so overgrown that you could not even wheel a wheelbarrow in there, let alone deliver any concrete unless it was in a bucket.

Following this exchange EirGrid introduced new information regarding seven access routes and eleven minor changes arising from map inaccuracies.

JARLATH FITZSIMONS SC for EirGrid said the application before the Board was for an overhead line and there was no proposal to underground the line. Let’s be clear about it, he told the inspectors. He also said a number of issues raised regarding land valuation, health and tourism had already been answered in previous modules.

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