INTERCONNECTOR DAY29

DAY TWENTY-NINE

This section dealt with individual Monaghan landowners

MARIA MCKENNA, Lisdrumgormly, said she was objecting to having overhead lines put over her lands. This was for reasons of potential health risks; devaluation of the land and restriction on future development; visual impact of the proposed lines; interference with nature and enjoyment of the countryside, as well as safety issues.

She questioned why EirGrid were proposing to erect a pylon on one of the highest points along the proposed route, with no direct access to the site from any public road. The company had revised the access route map and now proposed to enter the field via a gate from a road on another landowner’s field. She feared that two good quality fields would be destroyed by heavy vehicle traffic accessing the pylon construction site and the two stringing areas.

The pylon would be a ninety degree angle tower on a high drumlin. The views from the top of this hill were breathtaking, she said, and the countryside would be spoiled forever by the pylon and lines. Mrs McKenna wanted to know if EirGrid proposed to remove a stone hedgerow boundary between her land and her neighbour’s in order to access the site.

Referring to Drumgallon bog at the lower end of her lands, she said it was teeming with flora and fauna. The massive pylon would be a blot on the landscape and would have a very negative impact on all aspects associated with the enjoyment of the area, including the Monaghan Way walking route.

She hoped An Bord Pleanála would have the courage and foresight to make the right decision in refusing EirGrid’s application or to recommend the lines be put underground. The health and safety, wellbeing of the community and the preservation of the beautiful landscape must be protected, she concluded.

PADRAIG AGNEW, Barraghy, also spoke on behalf of his neighbour MARY HAMILL, Aghamakerr. He said he strongly objected to having pylons in this peaceful farmland.

Cllr SEAN GILLILAND pointed out that the proposed pylon at Barraghy was an angle tower that would be situated in a very wet area of bogland, where there was floodwater all year round. The topography was particularly steep at that point.

DECLAN KEENAN, Ardragh, said the landowners would fight this plan until it was stopped. He questioned EirGrid about proposed access routes to a pylon and guarding area that would be on his land. Construction traffic would totally disturb the routes he used for farm work, he said, and if he was cutting silage, who would get priority? He questioned what would be the benefit of having a pylon on his land. The proposed line would be providing power for Northern Ireland and this supply was an urban problem. Mr Keenan said he was not going to stand by and have his land destroyed.

JIM COYLE, Ardragh, said the overhead line had more minuses than plusses. Buisness people told the hearing they needed the line. But they were freeloading on the farmers. If they wanted it then they would have to pay for it. It would not be done at his or his neighbours’ expense.

He said he would not ever give up on this. If EirGrid bullied us, then we would bully them, he said. If EirGrid win the battle and get the pylons up, then that would not mean they had won the war. He said the proposed development would have a devastating effect on tourism. Mr Coyle also raised questions about a badger sett on the land and about the disinfection process for vehicles as a precaution against disease.

JOHN FINLASS, Ardragh, said the last eight years since the initial plan had been a hell for local people. EirGrid had been dragging it out and this was very unfair. Changes had been made to EirGrid’s transmission line plans in the west and south, so why not in Co. Monaghan? They were not saying they did not want the interconnector, but why not put it underground? He also had concerns about the impact of the construction on badgers that were known to be in the area.

ALLEN MCADAM, Ardragh, said he was strongly opposed to the development on a number of grounds: the potential health effects, devaluation of property, and the limitations to current and future recreational and business use of property. He said the human cost had been enormous and had not been quantified or given due recognition in the weighting of criteria for the route selection.

Mr McAdam explained that in 2007 a cloud came over the community when the project was announced and they had lived under it for nine long years. This war of attrition by the applicant had left families with many sleepless nights; fathers and mothers worrying about their children; sons and daughters worried about their elderly parents.

He said he was very concerned at potential adverse health effects from EMF on his young family of four children under the age of 14, due to the proximity of the lines to their dwelling house and the adjoining fields. The WHO guidelines on EMF exposure levels did not give him great confidence in their accuracy, particularly with the WHO track record on asbestos and smoking.

No specific impact assessment on his property had been provided by EirGrid. The dwelling was approximately 350m from the line; the base of the nearest pylons would be a number of metres higher than the chimney on their two-storey farmhouse.

After speaking to a local auctioneer, he believed the devaluation of property would be enormous, with no compensation available. His family had lived there for 350 years and did not expect the imposition of such a state-sponsored threat to their health, wellbeing and tranquility of the unspoilt countryside.

Mr McAdam claimed the so-called public consultation had been at best farcical. Access to a public meeting in Monaghan was denied, venues were changed at a few hours’ notice and every conceivable attempt was made by EirGrid to mislead and hide the true information until the route was selected. As an Irish citizen he said he was ashamed at the manner in which this state and EU co-financed body had conducted its affairs. He claimed its staff and agents during the hearing had been seen to be under-prepared, lacking in experience and knowledge, and appeared to be indifferent to the views of the people in this area.

Referring to the environmental impact statement, he claimed the multiplicity of errors and mistakes made by EirGrid in interpreting aerial photographs to draw up access routes showed a complete lack of knowledge of what exactly was on the ground. Surveys of habitats had not been conducted as 75% of the lands had not been walked. He questioned why EirGrid did not use it statutory powers to enter the land to carry out these surveys. He wondered if such powers existed at all.

He had attended the previous oral hearing in July 2010 and partook in proceedings at that failed planning application. Mistakes had been made then by EirGrid. This time around despite the endless supply of money to finance its reworking, the enormous staffing resources housed in this hotel for the last two months, this application was in his view infinitely worse.

He reiterated his strong opposition to the application by EirGrid in its current form. He trusted that the very real and grave concerns he had outlined would be fully considered.

He asked the inspectors where he could access the additional information about access routes and clarification provided thus far at the oral hearing. As a directly affected landowner he had not been sent this information and the only details he had seen were in the reports of the Northern Standard.

Mr McAdam concluded: “Make no mistake Inspectors when you are deliberating over the debates at this hearing and adjudicating over the grant of planning: you are not merely deciding on a piece of infrastructure, rather on a project that would have a profound effect on this community, the impact of which could be accurately equated by us who are directly affected as akin to a life sentence, not only for this generation, but also for our children and generations of people to come.”

TERRY LYNCH, Ardragh, appeared with his father SEAN LYNCH. He claimed EirGrid had no real understanding of the geography along the proposed route. Neither did they place any value on the traditions of County Monaghan. He had heard Eirgrid describe this countryside as ‘sparsely populated’.

This was suggestive of almost uninhabited landscape and therefore of little consequence, but nothing could be further from the truth. County Monaghan was a rich tapestry of glacial legacies and the careful hand of human habituation. It was the hedgerows, the ditches, the drumlins, and the bogs, the lanes and right of ways, the homes and farmhouses, the fields and the dolmens; every inch had been accounted for by the carefully managed and slow hand of tradition, he said.

Families had inherited from their predecessors these small enterprises and the traditions, along with the responsibility to look after them and hand them onto the next generation. The value of this tradition and the value of the land and homes was inalienable. But if EirGrid were given permission to overground this project, then the farm and home would become worthless. Families would have nothing of value to hand onto the next generation. EirGrid’s proposal would break traditions that had made the rural landscape of Monaghan unique.

He told the inspectors: “Our farm was bought by my grandfather; my nephew and niece are the fourth generation of our family to walk the land. The farm and home have a rich historic value, dating back to the plantation of Ulster and the Shirley estate. We invested large sums of money in restoring and protecting the house, the labourers’ sleeping quarters, the coach houses and the dispensary, which served as a hospital before and during the famine years. It would have been easy to bulldoze them all, but we sought to preserve as well as develop the farm into a viable enterprise. Years of hard work have paid off and it is a beautiful place to live.”

Mr Lynch said EirGrid’s plan would see a pylon being erected on a rise behind the house and outbuildings. Not only would this compromise the value and charm of the farm, but living under its shadow would change completely their relationship with their home. EirGrid planned to use a private driveway as their construction access point. This would undoubtedly prove a danger as the route passed within yards of the house and right next to the lawn.

Over the period of construction, and for years after, they would effectively become prisoners in their home. The construction route would also see fleets of heavy vehicles thunder right beside one of the historic stone buildings, thereby damaging the foundations. The yard was also too small for heavy vehicles to turn. The construction work would shut down their farm. Their land was recently reseeded and construction would damage the fields they depended on for silage and farm viability.

Mr Lynch pointed out that another proposed construction route passed over a well of significant local historic value. EirGrid had written off undergrounding because it wanted a cheaper way. The company must be told to find a way to put the cables underground, he said.

PHILIP FREEMAN, Ardragh, said he strongly objected to the proposed pylons. He did not know how EirGrid could assess the impact on his farm as low, when the line would split his land in two. He hoped the interconnector would be put underground.

PAUL RUSSELL, Ardragh was accompanied by his son EUGENE RUSSELL. Mr Russell said the people of Monaghan were being treated as second class citizens. Their rights were being taken away and an injustice was being inflicted on them. He hoped the Board would give them justice.

EUGENE RUSSELL, an 18 year-old Leaving Certificate student, addressed the inspectors on issues of health concerns for humans and animals. He was also worried that future development would be affected and that it would not be possible to build a home on land where there was a monstrosity like a pylon. Land values would depreciate, he said. EirGrid should not be allowed to go ahead with the plan and the

line should be put underground, he said. He was also concerned about the visual impact of the infrastructure close to a ringfort near their house.

MARY MCENANEY, Ardragh, stated bluntly: “No way will a pylon go up on my land”. Her house which was built in 1971 would be close to one of the towers. The only change EirGrid had made since the original application was to move the site of the pylon from a field on one side of the road to the other.

TERRY LYNCH, Ardragh, also represented Lawrence Keenan, Corvally, and Thomas McEneaney. One of the pylons EirGrid proposed to erect would be on a high drumlin and it would have a significant visual impact, he said.

JAMES HANNIGAN, Corvally, spoke about the potential health risks and the noise that would come from overhead lines.

PHILIP CONNOLLY, Carrickamore, Corduff, said EirGrid had wasted millions of Euro on the last oral hearing. Now they saw the numbers of highly educated paid staff and experts the company had at this oral hearing, all the documentation and costs involved and there was also a massive advertising campaign locally. The fact that it was ongoing during this public hearing was intimidating and demeaning to a lot of affected stakeholders and in the very least distasteful. All this expense was being funded by Joe Public, the consumer and taxpayer.

EirGrid had told the hearing and the stakeholders many times how they had the power to enter any lands to survey or erect lines. Why didn’t they enter onto the lands at an early stage and do a proper route corridor selection, and then proceed to do a proper EIS with proper site evaluation, accurate visual assessment, etc. WHY ? Instead they have tried to use and indeed abuse stakeholders over the last seven years, and this oral hearing, to try and patch together an EIS.

Mr Connolly said some of the major nineteen changes to access routes submitted by the company in March would impact on residents not previously impacted upon. Some of these people did not make a submission and were still totally unaware of the changes as these details are nowhere for public viewing. EirGrid, he said, had tried to close the stable door after the horse had bolted.

What the Board must really ask themselves now is, taking into account that EirGrid had unrestricted physical access to every single one of the entry points on the public road along with their LIDAR and they can make so many (47 documented so far, and more to come) serious errors or anomalies, how can you trust the accuracy of the positioning of the pylon sites where they had no physical survey at all. Many pylons could be in laneways or out on the road. How can the Board have any faith in any of the drawings on this application?

The developer should have made available a 3D model of this project to enable the public and indeed the Board to be able to properly visualise its scale, nature and the visual effect on the landscape. All the maps, drawings and folders do nothing to help the stakeholders visualise its effects.

Whooper swans flight paths and wintering are a significant impact on the route corridor in my local area. Mitigation measures are proposed i.e. hanging large deflectors on lines. These will greatly increase the negative non mitigatable impact of the lines on route A. Was this extra visual impact taken into account in route selection?

As EirGrid states itself, no new consultation was carried out for the first two of five stages for this project. This application states that it would be a normal scenario for a project development like this to have consultation from stage one but that this application is unique. This one is unique alright, but unique is no excuse or reason for not doing planning properly. Take for example those new residents in corridor A who were not there in 2007. They have been denied their statutory right to consultation at the earliest stage.

The final route constraints report 2007, on which the preliminary evaluation and final evaluation reports are based never mention the town of Shercock when it lists towns and settlements in the study area. The preliminary re-evaluation 2011 report 5.2.2 page 72 lists the settlements in the Cavan – Monaghan study area; Carrickmacross, Castleblayney, Annyalla, Doohamlet, Oram, Lough Egish, Broomfield, Laragh, Lisdoonan, Corduff, Donaghmoyne, Magheracloone and Kingscourt.

Nowhere is Shercock mentioned in this report either. It is gross incompetence to omit Shercock in the first report but what sort of re-evaluation was carried out to miss it yet again in the 2011 re-evaluation? It wasn’t re-evaluation, it was rubber stamping. Shercock lies 2.9 km from the proposed line. I believe it is the closest town to that line. It is definitely the only town that can see several pylons from the main street.

The EIS and many other section of this application are inadequate, factually incorrect, unsuitable and littered with errors omissions and mis-information. It is based on old, outdated reports, surveys and consultation and the Board has a responsibility to ensure that all relevant planning requirements are met, no matter what the scale or deemed demand or pressure for the project. This application falls way short in many aspects, he said.

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