This section involved landowners and groups from Co. Monaghan
HUGH WOODS, Cornamucklagh North, and his nephew DAMIEN WOODS were represented by a neighbour Jim McNally. Hugh Woods is 88 and is a bachelor. Mr McNally said Mr Woods was in hospital at the moment. The whole planning process had contributed to the worry and stress that he had to cope with, since it first came to his notice in 2007.
Hughie Woods came from a different generation, who worked very hard all their lives to maintain their farm holdings in the best possible condition and in harmony with the landscape. They had a personal knowledge by name of all their animals, their lineage, maintaining their welfare and the welfare of the environment where they grazed. The land parcel description provided by EirGrid stated that the sensitivity was medium, and noted that there were yard/farm buildings located approximately 60m NW of the proposed overhead line.
Mr McNally said Hughie Woods had telephoned him early on after the project was announced. He stated he was afraid to return to his house when he saw a car (with an EirGrid official) arriving unannounced and without prior appointment. He got a leaflet from EirGrid in the door on that particular day. He went on: “This policy employed by EirGrid to “cold call” on elderly farmers with a view to seeking access onto their landholdings is reprehensible in my view and as I have stated previously socially unacceptable. Elderly people are easily duped, are trusting of people they meet and accept people at face value.”
With regards to consultation, Mr Woods would freely admit that he has never used a computer and would not know what the internet is. He got as far as third or fourth class in National School before the war in the1930’s, when computers were not even invented. He had to leave school early to work on the family farm. Mr Woods travels everywhere in his Massey Ferguson tractor: to the local church in Annyalla on Sunday, about three miles, and to his local towns Castleblayney and Ballybay which are about five miles away. The location of an Information office in Carrickmacross, nearly twenty miles away, was well outside the range of Hughie’s tractor travels and was therefore not a viable option. To get a taxi there would be prohibitively expensive on a man who survived on a meagre income. Even if Hughie had received the enormous amount of material provided by EirGrid, he would have encountered great difficulty in interpreting the information and the personal impact it would have on his own farm holding.
The proposed 400kV powerline would cut a swathe through the centre of Hughie’s farmholding. There would be little room left to maintain a viable farm enterprise. The proposed access route had a mature tree located between a hayshed and outbuildings that had not identified by the Lidar orthophotography. If Lidar orthophotography imagery could not identify static features on the ground, such as significant mature trees and outbuildings, what therefore were the chances of it identifying the detailed features of hedgerows, protected species of flora and fauna such as bats and badger? Desk-based studies were no substitute for site specific visits and could not be relied upon by An Bord in evaluating the accuracy of the environmental impact statement and planning application. It was necessary to walk the ground in order to prepare a proper planning application that was accurate and could be relied upon.
Hughie’s outhouses and calfsheds would have to be demolished to facilitate access. The trauma such construction or demolition activity would have on an 88 year-old man could not be measured or summarised in a submission. These buildings were part of Hughie’s history and heritage and were embedded in his memory. Access was not possible for Eirgrid through Hughie’s pumphouse and a mature tree, which were between the hayshed and the outbuildings.
Pylon 126 would be 80m from Hughie’s house. He would be reminded daily as he sat in his living room of the overbearing presence of a large steel structure and powerlines within a short viewing distance from his window. The peaceful rural countryside lifestyle and sounds of the dawn chorus in springtime would be replaced by the rasping noise of a corner pylon and powerlines. The impact this would have on Hughie’s mental wellbeing was immeasurable; his way of life would be irrevocably changed.
At the stringing location, north of tower 126, EirGrid proposed to make an access through an unbroken mature hedge into an adjoining field. There was a badger sett entrance in the hedgerow. Badgers and their setts were strictly protected under the Wildlife Amendment Act 2000. There was widespread evidence on the ground that badgers were very active in this area, but the EIS at this location made no reference to them.
Hughie Woods and his nephew were totally opposed to this proposed intrusion onto his farm by EirGrid, which has worried him greatly over the last few years and is having a detrimental impact on his health. The method employed by EirGrid of “cold calling” on Hughie Woods, with a view to seeking access on to his landholding, without him having advance notice, or the opportunity of having a family representative present, was inexcusable and could not be condoned under any circumstances. The consultation process was non existent and out of reach for Hughie Woods. The access route up a narrow laneway, through his gate post and outbuildings, is not practical and highlighted the inadequacies of Lidar orthophotography, the dissection of his landholding rendering it useless over an extended period and the impact on long established and legally protected badger setts in his hedgerows is contrary to proper environmental planning.
Mr McNally asked the inspectors to take in to consideration the concerns of elderly landowners who had dedicated their lives to farming their small farmholding during difficult times and who wished to be left alone in their twilight years to enjoy their retirement without excessive worry. He urged An Bord Pleanála to reject the proposed overhead powerline in favour of an alternative and achievable HVDC underground option.
MALACHY SMYTH, Derryhalla, spoke on his own behalf and that of his wife, three children, his brother Gerry, neighbours Eugene Brennan and Gerry Carragher and his mother. EirGrid was proposing to put a power line close to his home and his mother’s home. His three girls aged 13, 11 and 7 often played football with their friends in the field that the 400kV line would cross. This was their playground.
This field was safe. He could carry out farm work and keep a close eye on them. Why should his children and friends fall victim of EirGrid’s greed, so they could build a cheap power line? “Are they second class citizens? To me they are certainly not”, he said. The pylons were being put in either non-residential farmland or elderly farmers’ land. Did EirGrid think these people were soft targets? That was not the case.
EirGrid had put a notice in the Northern Standard every week which said “We’re here to talk.” Today I am here to talk, Mr Smyth said. He hoped EirGrid were there to listen.
“I sat in this hotel for two days last week watching EirGrid experts and legal teams trying NOT to answer questions put to them. I felt they made a pretty good job of doing this. If one expert had difficulty achieving this, then it was quickly passed on to a colleague. Even Mr Google was called into action on their laptops on a few occasions. This process has now been going on for the last nine years. How much longer has it to continue until EirGrid get the message that we will not accept these pylons, he said.
I have concern about my small dairy herd of 25 cows, access routes to pylons 128-129, my brother’s only right of way to his farm. I am sure as everyone from EirGrid and thir legal teams leave this lovely hotel today having listened to us farmers and landowners moan about our problems with this 400kV power line they will like to get home to their communities, relax and unwind with their family. I also like to unwind with my family. I like to take my children around the farm, let them see the wonderful gift of nature at work, the birds building their nests, plants starting to grow, the young calves, lambs playing in the field.
If this 400kV power line is approved by ABP this wonderful way of unwinding will be taken away from me and my family forever. I will be living in the shadow of big ugly pylons. The powerlines these pylons carry will be sending down pain on my children. Poison I will not be able to see, feel or touch. From what I heard last week I will hear it on a damp day. I have a small milking herd of cows. If milk becomes unsafe for human consumption who is responsible? What would happen if there was an accident on the access lane?
PEADAR MCSKEANE, Cargaghramer, was accompanied by his daughter CIARA BRENNAN. She said EirGrid was planning to put up a pylon on a field where her father had an outfarm and very close to site where her brother proposed to build a house. Her father was now in a limbo situation, waiting to see if the line would be put underground, while his son was living in rented accommodation.
She pointed out that the proposed access route for construction of the pylon was along a neighbour’s lane that was only suitable for residential traffic and not heavy machinery. There was a Mass rock on the site where Mass was celebrated every year. The proposed power line with a monstrosity of a pylon was unreal and they did not want it on their land. It would be a serious inconvenience, she said.
JOHN HUGHES, Drumroosk, was represented by Nigel Hillis. EirGrid was planning to build a pylon on his land. The foundation for two of the four legs would be in very wet ground. Mr Hillis questioned how the tower would be constructed in order to have the least impact and ensure there was no pollution to a nearby spring wxell that served the house and farm. There was an existing 110kV power line beside Mr Hughes’ home and if the overhead interconnector went ahead he would be surrounded by power lines. The devaluation of his land would be immense and would impact on farming practices.
ROSEMARY MOORE, Secretary of Doohamlet District Community Development Association said the proposed interconnector route would pass through the area in the townlands of Crinkill, Cornamucklagh South, Terrygreeghan and Rausker. The line of the pylons would be just over 1km from the heart of the village. That might seem insignificant, but the scale, obtrusiveness and implications of the development would impact on the whole community.
Many experts and specialists had spoken on the health impacts of the development. We cannot add to this discussion, except to say that if there is any question about the health implications of this development, we appeal to An Bord Pleanála to refuse the development to protect the health and wellbeing of our community.
The proposed route and associated pylons have been sited on high points across the Doohamlet area, as evidenced from two photomontages. We do not feel that the locations chosen for these photomontages best illustrate the visual intrusion of the development on the landscape, nor do they clearly show the impact of the proposed bird flight diverters. The proposed route would impact visually on a much wider area than the corridor of land it would occupy.
The power lines across the valleys between these pylons will be very visible, particularly from the R183 Ballybay to Doohamlet road, where travelling east from Ballybay a panoramic view of the drumlin landscape opens up to drivers from a lower lying plain at Ballintra. The pylons will be extremely visible and will be the most intrusive part of the development. They will tower above and dominate our landscape. Where the power lines cross the Ballybay to Castleblayney Road R183 the top of pylon 144 would be 55m higher than road level.
The pylons are elevated compared to the top of the drumlins, and also compared to the lower lying valleys between the drumlins from which the pylons and powerlines will be extremely visible.
Furthermore, bird flight diverters were proposed along the wires, adding to the visual intrusion. There appears to have been no effort made to run the route of the proposed pylons through the natural valleys between the drumlins, which would have reduced the visual intrusion and impact on the landscape.
The unspoilt scenery of Co Monaghan and in particular that of the Doohamlet region was a significant factor and a primary reason in attracting tourists to the area. The many small and tranquil lakes were a major destination for European fishermen during the fishing season.
Tonyscallon Lake where the development association plans to create a walkway and fishing stands is located just 1km east of the proposed route. In one case the tower would be 73m above the landscape. The scale and location of the proposed pylons was totally out of keeping with the area. The proposed interconnector would detract from any recreational and accommodation facilities developed locally. It was essential that the quality and character of the valuable tourist resource be protected now and for generations to come.
Ms Moore said the proposed development would impact significantly on the protected whooper swan. They wanted to safeguard the local whooper swan population for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.
We commend Eirgrid for having thorough surveys undertaken at Ballintra plain and do not question their integrity, but there is a huge variation in the numbers of whooper swans their ornithologists counted over a seven year period 2007-2013. We note that whooper swans were only at the site on 21 of these 111 days. We know whooper swans are common and frequent visitors to our area. They have been present for decades. We have no doubt that the surveys were undertaken in accordance with best practice, however the surveys clearly do not adequately record whooper swan numbers in our area. Our concern is that this data and future surveys will ultimately inform decisions as to whether the development should proceed. Given the unpredictability of the whooper swan population day by day, will negative decisions on their protection be taken, both now and in the future?
To mitigate against the detrimental impact the power lines will have on the whooper swan population, bird flight diverters are proposed. We have many questions and concerns about the proposed monitoring and mortality surveys. The proposed bird flight diverters offer no protection to the whooper swans during periods of fog or low visibility. Both the roost and feed sites are regularly prone to localised fog. The lands the whooper swans feed on at Ballintra Plain are at a level of 85m. Their flight path means they must rise up over the drumlin topography to clear drumlins at levels of between 126m and 136m. The power lines are located on the top of the drumlins, meaning the height the whooper swans must clear is even higher – is there a chance that the height of the power lines is directly in the flight path of the whooper swans as they cross the drumlins in this area? Has Eirgrid observed or determined the height of the existing whooper swan flight line as they cross the route of the pylons and compared it with the proposed level of the power lines?
In the absence of any meaningful information about the protection of the whooper swans, we can only assume references to ongoing monitoring and mitigation within the planning application is either lip service or an afterthought, in which case the best interests of the whooper swans and our environment is not a priority for Eirgrid.
We are also concerned at the impact this proposed development will have on other wildlife, in particular the buzzards which have re-colonised the county, and other protected species in the area.
The R183 Ballybay to Castleblayney Road passes through Doohamlet village. It is narrow, with narrow footpaths on both sides. Doohamlet GFC, Church, Community Centre and Community Garden and Doohamlet National School all directly front this busy road. We are already concerned about traffic volumes and traffic speeds. The DDCDA has made many representations to Monaghan County Council in relation to road safety and speed limit issues. We are obviously concerned for the safety of our local residents and the long-standing impacts the additional traffic will have on the local roads infrastructure.
Our community is concerned about the implications of this development on health, sustainable development, the environment and infrastructure, and believes the proposed interconnector will negatively affect all of these aspects of our lives. Our community is opposed to the proposed development and we insist the proposed interconnector should not proceed.
IRENE WARD represented Ballybay Concerned Residents as well as her own land holding at Terrygreeghan. She said the beautiful vista from a housing development at the top of Wylie’s Hill, Ballybay, would be impacted by the power lines and pylons which an EirGrid consultant estimated were approximately 2.7km away. There were also concerns about whether it would affect sporting and social activities at the local GAA pitch on the Castleblayney Road.
JAMES RICE, Derryhallagh, said he would be living close to two pylons if the project went ahead but EirGrid had not extended him the courtesy of sending him a map showing the location of the line. As a person who had worked for twenty years in the area of health and safety, he expressed concern about the possible effects of electric and magnetic fields. He worried about the possible devaluation of his house if the interconnector was approved in its present form. If it went underground, as it should in any civilised society, then he would have peace.
TREVOR FIELD, Terrygreeghan, said he and his wife had received planning permission from Monaghan County Council in November 2011 to build a house in a field owned by his mother-in-law. This was after EirGrid had withdrawn their previous planning application in June 2010. The first indication they had that EirGrid was re-considering the project was in 2013 when maps were sent to his mother-in-law showing the line crossing between their houses and a proposed huge angle pylon on the farmland. It seemed that EirGrid had intentionally decided to punish them for daring to build their new dream home under their wires. There would now be a massive cumulative impact on two houses, a farmyard and a small dairy farming operation both during the construction and the operational phase.
Mr Field expressed concerns about the potential effects of EMF radiation. He said the proposed line was too close to their house. The risk to their health and that of their children was totally unacceptable. There seemed to be no duty of care in this regard.
His wife’s mother had a pacemaker and was given medical advice to keep away from any machinery that had a high electric field. EirGrid had not given her health and safety any consideration, he claimed.
Mr Field said their new house would be totally devalued by the proposed pylon and power lines. Even if they wanted to they could never sell it and move away. The farm would also be devalued. (In an earlier module) EirGrid had said some American study showed that power lines do not devalue property. But what relevance had some study in North America got to do with the small fields and farms in Co. Monaghan? Absolutely none whatsoever in his opinion and it was an insult to people’s intelligence to try to tell them that their houses and farms would not be devalued.
In conclusion Mr Field told the inspectors: “We do not want this inflicted on us and on future generations hopefully yet to be born. We ask you to recommend that this application is rejected or put underground”.
BARRY DUFFY, Dunmaurice, Doohamlet is a home owner.
I represent my family and staff and pupils at All Saints Doohamlet NS. 127 pupils and 15 staff. As a father of three young children I am horrified at the thought of what this project in its present form will bring. First, the health implications, which EirGrid are denying. The list of health risks EirGrid are unleashing upon my family is far too serious for me to accept. Why should this be inflicted upon me and my family?
My home is situated between Ballybay and Doohamlet. We live in a cul-de-sac 1km off the main road. We are nestled among the drumlin hills and beautiful surroundings in the heart of the countryside. I regularly take my children on nature walks around our home on the top of a hill behind our house. We would sit and look across the county and far beyond of which the view is breathtaking.
We are surrounded by wildlife such as buzzards, pheasants, swans to name b?ut a few. The wetlands in front of our house the rivers passes are regularly fished where otters, stoats, foxes and many more. Is it right as humans to damage their habitat?
The visual impact of these steel monstrosities strung across the drumlin hills and far beyond is irreversible to the beautiful land upon which they would stand.It is my belief if this project were to go ahead it would leave a sterile corridor of land vacant of community spirit.
I know that EirGrid would have us believe is in the interest of us all in order to ensure a more reliable electricity supply grid. The truth in my opinion is that the real purpose of this line is to facilitate a handful of multinational corporations to export their wind power out of the state. These same nameless, faceless, greedy capitalists with their deep pockets think they can flout the laws and tramp on people’s civil liberties in order to achieve their goals.
These empress of greed and their cohorts need to be taught a lesson and listen to the communities which this project affects.
The land of this country does not belong to you or I or EirGrid. We are merely keepers of it for our short stay and it is our moral obligation and duty to preserve it and leave it as we found it.
The teachers of Doohamlet NS celebrated the 1916 Rising with the children of the school. They have taught them about the forefathers of the Republic. Men who sacrificed all to give us our freedom. Freedom that is now being eroded by EirGrid. EirGrid is aware of the pupils’ disapproval of this project and yet they try to push ahead with it. EirGrid cold-called to Doohamlet NS unannounced. We here in 2016 need to be more revolutionary in our thinking: why should we do things the easy way because it’s the cheapest way? This is very short-sighted.
We as Irish people are better than that. This state has been very pioneering in the recent past. We were the first in the world to introduce a workplace smoking ban in order to protect people’s health and the rest of the world quickly followed. The levy of plastic bags to protect our environment was another great success. Why not here in this instance? And let the profit-making corporate companies be a little more accountable, for there’s no shortage of zeros on the bottom of their balance sheets at year end. Can we not be the makers of our own destiny and not be dictated to by the wealthy elite of capitalism?
CHARLIE MULLIGAN, Clogher also represented his neighbour EUGENE SHANNON. He had listened to EirGrid at the start of the oral hearing outlining their plan, which he said seemed to stress the importance of minimizing the different impacts their proposal might have. In his own case the proposed access route to a pylon, far from having minimal impact, would in fact have a very substantial impact.
He told the presiding inspector he had been sent a map outlining the proposed access route, without any prior consultation or communication. There were a number of serious issues regarding the proposed access route. The proposed location of the pylon was on an adjacent farm with its own right of way and access from the public road. However it was being proposed that access to the pylon be gained via a completely different and much more damaging route. He said the present access route plan proposed to come through his private laneway and subsequently right through the middle of his farmyard.
Mr Mulligan said there were a number of serious concerns regarding health and safety, damage to property and major inconvenience. Firstly the laneway was in recent years tarred at considerable expense. This laneway is built on bogland and as such did not have the capacity to handle heavy goods traffic of the nature that would be required for the erection of such pylons. When he had the lane tarred he said he stopped milking cows in order to put an end to milk tankers using the route as it was not capable of handling such traffic.
Secondly the proposed route would go through the middle of his farmyard thus restricting him from carrying out day to day activities on the farm. There were also a number of animals housed in this area and the kind of heavy traffic proposed would be a major cause of distress to them. In addition, the damage that would be done to his lane and farm would be irreparable. It seemed obvious that the EirGrid had little or no knowledge of the ground plan of the laneway and farm. If they had then they would be aware that a lot of the land they proposed to go through was heavy soil and had been shored. The effect of heavy goods traffic would be to burst and close shores, leaving the fields permanently wet, rendering the land useless until such time as it would be returned to its existing state.
The impact on people’s health was not at all clear. This very high powered line would give off strong EMF, which could hardly be good for human or animal life, something that was a major concern not just for himself but for individuals and communities living or working anywhere near the lines.
Another concern was the level of noise from the lines, particularly in wet conditions. These levels had not been quantified and in time would most likely turn out to be another major problem. The negative visual impact of this monstrous line of pylons could not be overstated. Could anyone explain how the visual impact of such a line going in and around the drumlins of the mid-Monaghan region could be minimised?
EirGrid talked of minimising the impact of this monstrous development which would simply destroy the tranquil and unspoilt landscape for ever. It would leave farms that it passed through or passed over worthless. There could be no justification that a person’s private property, livelihood and standard of living could be devalued in this way. One pylon would be on his land. At the beginning of this proposed project this pylon was supposed to be situated on a ditch; then as time went on he received a map showing a new position. On this map the location of the planned pylon moved roughly 100m on in the direction of the next tower, away from the ditch and out into the field. Mr Mulligan said he was not consulted about the proposed move.
He asked EirGrid why they had changed the position of the proposed pylon from the centre of a ditch out into the field and up to higher ground. Did they propose to adjust the height of this pylon to take account of the higher ground level, as this was one of the highest pylons in the proposed project. Why leave a distance between the pylon and the ditch, to leave it most difficult to work silage machinery around? Finally, what diameter was the cabling?
Consultation and communication had been severely lacking in EirGrid’s whole approach to this proposal. If it was to be forced onto people as presently outlined, it would have a catstrophic effect on the environment, the area and the people who lived and worked there. Such a proposal simply could not be allowed to move forward with total disregard for the people it would affect and completely against their will.
He suggested to Bord Pleanála to be very careful in approving the proposal. At the stroke of a pen they could leave life a misery for so many people for ever. If the members of An Bord were in any doubt as to why people were objecting, what the inspectors needed to do for one minute was to imagine living their lives in the shadow of this 400kV line. If those were the circumstances, would you like to see this proposal getting planning permission? With 92% of landowners opposed to the method proposed by EirGrid—and time had not weakened their resolve—it was now time for EirGrid to consider the underground option, where they would be working in harmony with the people.
The proposal by EirGrid would be vigorously opposed by him and people like him, he said. If there was to be any future n the proposed project then there needed to be more communication and consultation, as had happened in other parts of the country in order to reach an agreement that was acceptable to all parties concerned.
CLARE AND JOHN REILLY, Drumguillew Lower, have three children aged from 9 to 12. Mrs Reilly told the hearing they built their house on her family’s farm and it incorporated a sun room at the side to ensure they had a good view of the valley between two drumlins. EirGrid proposed to erect a tower right in the middle of this view, 65m from their site boundary. They would always be looking through this monstrosity no matter what window they looked out of. She said it was indescribable how devastating this would be for them and if they had dreamt it was going to happen, they would not have built their house on that site.
The fact that two towers were proposed to be built so close to their house and they did not own the property they would be built on left them in an extremely vulnerable and helpless position, as it impacted on them the most yet they had no rights over the land EirGrid were proposing to build on.
They made objections to the original proposal and in July 2013 received a letter from EirGrid saying their requests had been considered and the tower that affected them the most was going to be located in a field across the road, out of sight of their sun lounge windows and 180m away from the house. In March 2015 a subsequent letter from EirGrid said they were rescinding this ‘concession’ and that they could no longer accommodate the request. Instead of 180m the tower would be 65m from the site boundary. This was a blow to us. The most recent plans in 2015 have this tower in an even lower level of the field than the proposed location prior to 2013, but it is more of an obstruction to the view.
We have serious concerns on how these pylons affect the value of our property. How can anyone say that a towering steel pylon 65m from your house would not influence someone’s decision to buy the house or how much they are prepared to pay for it? I know EirGrid have issued statements to say property values are not affected. But please do not insult our intelligence by thinking we would believe this.
We also have personal serious concerns on the health implications of these pylons, and in particular childhood cancer. EirGrid cannot state categorically that there are no direct links between electric magnetic fields from high voltage power lines and childhood cancer; on the other hand there are studies that show there is a possible link and in particular a study that was done in England and Wales (case control study year 2010 by Kroll ME, Swanson J., Vincent TJ, Draper GJ). In the cited study the magnetic fields of the home address at birth were calculated for each child where they looked at children suffering from cancer and then reviewed where they lived. The study showed a number of these children were living 200m from these high power pylons. Why would we gamble with children’s lives when EirGrid cannot categorically say there are no links. Do we want to take this gamble?
As such we are requesting that EirGrid provide us with the full confirmation in writing that they have completed a full validation and verification study that clearly indicates that 400kV lines do not present any health/cancer implication to residents within 200m of such lines.
Within our home we also have concerns about how these pylons would impact mobile phone signals, broadband or reception of satellite TV signals. There are no certainties around these and how they will be impacted. We would often work from home: how can we be sure these important tools for our work are not going to be affected?
In relation to noise and in particular wind gusting between power lines causing major whirring noise, we will always have this in the background. What is now a quiet locality will soon be a constant drone of whistling noise.
Please be assured we are not against commercial progress and would not do anything to stand in its way, especially when alternative solutions are available i.e. the underground cables.
As such we appeal to you to consider some environmentally friendly alternative to this that blends into the countryside instead of railroading a string of monstrous steel towers through our beautiful natural countryside that we are all so proud of, and why Ireland has got the name for a natural safe environment for crops/grass/animals etc.