This section dealt with construction, including temporary access routes
At the start of the hearing on Wednesday, presiding inspector Breda Gannon said she understood the concerns and difficulties expressed the previous day about the new information on temporary access routes that had been presented by EirGrid. She said she had decided to continue the hearing, the purpose of which was to act as an information gathering exercise to explore complex matters. She repeated her comments on the opening day, that the ultimate decision on the application rested with An Bord Pleanála, which would consider all matters raised and would have a number of options open to it. Her role was not to make a ruling on an item by item basis, she said. She invited observers and EirGrid to continue discussion on the construction module.
A lawyer for the NEPPC Michael O’Donnell BL said he had to accept the ruling but asked the inspector if she would agree to adjourn proceedings to allow an application to be made in court. This was rejected. The inspector said the NEPPC could continue to participate at any stage.
Robert Arthur of ESB International gave more details of the type of towers along the line, including a number of angle towers. Another ESBI consultant Jarlath Doyle explained details of the construction process, including the types of vehicles that would be used to bring concrete into fields where the steel pylons would be erected. It was also explained that ‘durabase’ matting was to be laid where necessary to provide access for vehicles in fields. These could be left in place for the duration of the construction process.
As an affected landowner with a pedigree Charolais herd on the family’s farm, Mary Marron of the CMAPC wanted to know if that meant the matting would be there for a span of three years. She called on EirGrid to be more specific about the fences that would be used to keep livestock away from the construction sites. Who was going to be responsible for the livestock and to whom could they address any queries relating to construction issues. It seemed that EirGrid was expecting each landowner to take responsibility for their animals and that was unacceptable.
Nigel Hillis of CMAPC pointed out that the type of fencing proposed along access routes was unsuitable for an agricultural setting. The pictures provided by EirGrid showed individual units of steel fencing joined together and anchored in blocks. He said such fencing was designed to keep people out, not animals and it would not stop a bull knocking it down. There was no proposal by the company to put up staked fencing with barbed wire, which is what farmers would use on their land.
Regarding the methodology used by the EirGrid consultants to investigate proposed access routes, Mr Hillis asked one of them if he had put on wellingtons and walked the dotted line shown on one of the maps leading to a proposed pylon site. He declined to answer the question. Some of his colleagues gave details later of how aerial photography combined with more recent Google mapping had allowed them to examine the possible routes, without having to contact landowners and access individual holdings.
Mr Hillis observed that the methodology of getting access to pylon sites was totally wrong. He explained that their committee had met on Tuesday evening and had decided they would not be returning as a group to the first part of the oral hearing.
Before departing Mary Marron said landowners should have been made aware of proposed changes. She asked EirGrid to provide proper photos of the type of machinery that would be used to access the pylon sites and asked for maps to show where matting would be laid. She requested the company to provide specific information on these issues.
Monaghan County Council senior planner Toirleach Gourley raised a number of questions with EirGrid about the details shown in some of the maps they had provided about the route of the line. He said the company had made an insufficient response to the concerns the Council had raised in their response to the planning application last August. Mr Gourley claimed a number of photomontages had limited legibility, such as one showing the point where the interconnector would cross the main N2 road at Annyalla.
A consultant landscape architect Joerg Schulze for EirGrid explained how he had drawn up the proposed route for the line, taking into account the relevant constraints such as avoiding residential areas where possible, sites of archaeological importance and loughs. In the drumlin landscape of County Monaghan it was not possible to avoid all drumlins but he believed he had found the best routing possible.
Mr Gourley said he was not convinced that putting pylons along the top of drumlins such as near Lough Egish was the ultimate choice. The planner also pointed out that Monaghan County Council had received no drawings showing the height and colour of the temporary buildings (portakabins) which EirGrid proposed to erect at a construction material storage yard beside the N2 at Monaltyduff/Monatybane outside Carrickmacross.