MARTIN HOGAN, a medical doctor and consultant occupational and environmental physician from UCC returned to address the hearing on behalf of EirGrid. Dr Hogan was asked to respond to earlier submissions by residents and landowners about the potential effect of the power lines on a person with autism.
Dr Hogan said ASD was not an uncommon disorder. It was present in up to 1% of the population in Ireland, with more boys affected than girls. He said it was a processing disorder rather than anything else. In terms of all the literature he had reviewed on the subject, there was no evidence he could find that power transmission lines would make life any more difficult than it already was for a person with ASD.
He was asked about his qualifications and experience of dealing with children with autism. Dr Hogan said he had no hands on experience in that regard but he did have friends who had children with autism. He said at a previous module there was no real reason to suspect that people with ASD would be adversely affected by the project.
The questions had been raised by Geraldine Graydon MSc, an autism specialist trainer and advocate. She had appeared earlier at the hearing on behalf of Colette McElroy, Ballintra, who has a son with autism and was concerned that he could be affected by the noise emitted from the power lines. Ms Graydon had explained that people with autism spectrum condition thrived on having a predictable familiar environment, with routine and structure being critical to their day-to-day activities.
When changes occurred to the individual’s routine or environment, like intermittent noise or buzzing from power lines, this could and does cause individuals with autism to experience extreme levels of stress. They would be unable to sleep or concentrate, pace up and down or engage in stimming behavior that could lead to self-injury, which would also impact on their families’ well-being.
TOM CANNON, a consultant for EirGrid, said Mrs McElroy’s house was 475m from a proposed pylon. During the construction phase there would be 154 traffic movements spread out over a period of time. A noise consultant said the noise of the vehicles used would not cause a significant impact. EirGrid also revealed that they had agreed to underground an existing 38kV overhead ESB line that ran beside the house.
This section involved landowners and groups in Co. Cavan
ANDREW CLARKE spoke on behalf of residents in Muff, near Kingscourt. “We’re not putting up with it and are ready to fight”, he said. He told the two inspectors they could not let the line happen and invited them to visit the townland. Local residents and landowners had been among the first to tell EirGrid to put the interconnector underground when the original proposal was made. He said EirGrid had lost the plot and had forgotten about rural Ireland.
AONGHUS BYRNE, Principal of Laragh Muff National School, said it was thriving and at the heart of the community. EirGrid wanted to place a pylon within 342m of their football pitch, making it the closest school along the line and destroying the beautiful views of the landscape enjoyed by the 135 pupils and ten staff. He could guarantee that if he asked them all, not one child would want the pylons to be put up. EirGrid seemed to be reverting to ‘chalk and slate’ technology and had not even looked at partially undergrounding the line near their school. Mr Byrne also expressed concern about construction traffic using a narrow road alongside the school to access a pylon site.
JOHN SMITH, Lisagoan, off the Kingscourt to Shercock road, said if the planned overhead line was allowed, it would be there for generations to come, ruining this beautiful country. He also claimed it could put people’s health in danger. He said he had spent a lot of money and time trying to improve the wet heavy clay land by draining and re-seeding. All that could be in vain if EirGrid got the go-ahead. Mr Smith said he was putting his trust in the planning authorities to make the right decision to go underground. It would be a better choice economically, environmentally and socially.
KEVIN SHIELS, Cordoagh, said one of the proposed pylons would be around 75m from the edge of his garden. EirGrid were also planning to put an access route for pylon construction 2m away from an entrance into the garden where his children played.
JIM BAIRD, Cordoagh, a neighbour of Mr Shiels, is a retired project manager with Gypsum. He said rural Ireland needed to be protected. EirGrid he claimed had very little regard for the rural population. He said rural Ireland vehemently objected to what was still the same ill-conceived scheme for an overhead line, an antiquated technology. and it was being pursued at their expense. “This has got to stop”, he said and he hoped they would get the just outcome they deserved.
KEVIN SMITH of the Loughanleagh and Muff Heritage Trust said the mountain was one of the highest points in the area with a view of eleven counties from the top. The proposed line would come close to the viewpoints and would be detrimental in his view. It would also be very near the site of one of the oldest fairs in Ireland dating back to 1608. The ridge of the mountain had three prehistoric cairns. The proposed interconnector would affect plans by the Trust to promote the area’s history and heritage.
EirGrid were given an opportunity to reply to each of the submissions, including comments on proposed access routes. A consultant pointed out that traffic management plans would be made for construction traffic, including at schools such as Muff N.S. where a speed limit of 30km/h would be implemented.
AIDAN GEOGHEGAN, EirGrid project manager, responded to concerns about the potential health risks and explained why an overhead route had been chosen instead of undergrounding for reasons of cost and security of supply. Partial undergrounding would be like putting a weak link into a strong chain, he said.
DECLAN MOORE, consultant archaeologist, said there would be no direct physical impact on the site of the annual horse fair at Muff, which would be approximately 230m away from the nearest pylon. His assessment showed that there would be views from the cairns on the mountain eastwards towards the proposed development; however these impacts on setting would not be significant.
JOERG SCHULZE, a landscape consultant for EirGrid said the views from Loughanleagh mountain would not be significantly impaired, although the line would be recognisable. He explained how photomontages of pylons against the landscape had been made in accordance with guidelines, using photos taken from public roads or at designated scenic viewpoints such as the car park at Loughanleagh, rather than from the top of the mountain.