This section concerned landowners and groups in Co. Monaghan, Co. Cavan and Co. Meath
PHIL CONNOLLY, Carrickamore, Carrickmacross, raised a number of issues about the consultation process on behalf of Margaret Marron of the Co. Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee.
He claimed that some landowners were not aware of changes that had been made to proposed access routes for pylon construction. He wondered how relevant all the environmental impact statement information was.
Mr Connolly said that since the preferred route had been announced by EirGrid, economic growth in that corridor was reduced. The proposal had had a socio-economic impact that could be clearly evaluated by looking at the number of residential dwellings within 100m of the indicative route of the power lines.
This was a reference to a submission he made the previous week when he quoted EirGrid’s own figures from a route constraints report in 2007. It stated that route corridor A had 34 residencies within 100m; route B had 36 residencies within 100m; route C had 40 residencies within 100m. All three corridors in 2007 showed nearly the exact same number of dwellings within 100m per 1km of route.
Fast forward to the re-evaluation report 2011. Taking into account that all three corridors had extended in length due to no substation in Kingscourt, we can conservatively estimate that four of these added dwellings per line are based in this extension. Route A has 41 dwellings, less 4 in Kingscourt, 8.8% increase. Route B has 52 dwellings, less 4, a 33.4% increase. Route C has 55 dwellings, less 4, a 27.5% increase. Allowing that the corridors overlap for the last section, the figures are far more alarming, according to Mr Connolly. He said they showed clearly a total stagnation in growth in dwellings close to the line, while the other possible route corridors had increased in growth dramatically.
Mr Connolly questioned EirGrid over the health and safety provisions for machinery such as teleporters operating in the vicinity of power lines. He also wanted to know why the impact on the town of Shercock had not been mentioned in the planning documentation and enquired how far the GAA Club would be from the proposed lines.
JARLATH FITZSIMONS SC for EirGrid told the presiding inspector the hearing so far had proved very worthwhile in answering the genuine queries of landowners. Regarding the choice of route corridor he said there was no sterilisation of land within the proposed alignment. Regarding land valuation and reported difficulties in selling properties close to overhead lines, Mr Fitzsimons referred to the Corr/Walsh report commissioned by EirGrid that was based on a survey of estate agents (Feb 2016). He said there was no statistical evidence of a relationship between a 400kV power line and the ability to sell a property or the price to be achieved. He said he would rebut the proposition that there would be a devaluation of land if Bord Pleanála granted approval for the line.
JOERG SCHULZE, landscape architect for EirGrid, said the line route had been chosen to minimise environmental impacts. Corridor A had come out as the most suitable option when the assessment was made.
PAT FARRELLY of Kingscourt GAA Club explained that the EirGrid proposal for pylons and overhead lines would enter the parish at one end on the Kingscourt to Kells Road and exit on the Shercock Road end, heading towards Co. Monaghan. Seven kilometres of the route would traverse across nine public roads in total, used every day by residents and people in their cars, criss-crossing that area. It was a big concern and it was the one topic that was being talked about locally.
Mr Farrelly said there were concerns about the health of players, club members and the public. EirGrid would try to tell them there was no health risk because of the lines, but their worries remained and they did not want the interconnector to go ahead overground. They knew there was an alternative, namely underground, and that it was viable. EirGrid had admitted it could be done that way and if told by the politicians to do so then they would.
Addressing the presiding inspector Breda Gannon, Mr Farrelly said she had heard all their concerns over the last ten weeks and there were very few people in favour of the current proposal. Groups such as his were not extremists, he said. They had tried to be sensible and they did not want to stop progress. Where there was a better way, it should be considered, he said.
He again raised the problems that would be encountered by pupils at Laragh Muff National School because the lines would come within 342m of the school playing fields. Many of the pupils and staff were associated with Kingscourt GAA Club. He also raised the objections of the Handball and Racquet Club. Mr Farrelly said the scouts would also be affected because the lines went close to the LoughanLeagh beauty spot. This was where they went for their outdoor activities to enjoy the scenery and peacefulness.
Mr Farrelly said EirGrid were putting their sponsorship of the GAA under-21 football championship and the International Rules series under the category of ‘community gain’. He wanted to know how much they were spending on this. He said that as a sporting body they were not in favour of overhead lines and the only way forward was to put them underground.
PHIL SMITH, Vice-President of Cavan GAA Board, said he wished to make it perfectly clear they were not in any way opposed to progress. Where there was an alternative between an overhead and an underground line then they favoured the underground option. In addition to Kingscourt GAA Club, two other clubs in Bailieborough and Shercock would be affected and they were very much opposed to having an overhead line.
DAMIEN GREHAN, a consultant for EirGrid, said the proposed line would come within 3.25km of Kingscourt GAA Club. ROBERT ARTHUR of ESB International acknowledged that the route of the interconnector would traverse several roads in the Kingscourt area. But he said it was important to maximise the distances from one-off housing in the area west of the town.
The relevant sections of the environmental impact statement supplied by EirGrid state: “At Tower 207 in the townland of Scalkill, the alignment turns south-west and proceeds to Tower 212 in the townland of Lisagoan crossing on its path two minor roads and crossing the main R162 (Kingscourt–Shercock) road approximately 5.5km north-west of Kingscourt and the Cavan-Monaghan county boundary, in order to circumvent the lakes west of the line route located at Northlands. The line route is also at a distance (approximately 1.27km) from the wetland complex of Greaghlone Lough in this area.
At Tower 212, in the townland of Lisagoan the line route crosses several minor roads, in order to avoid the ribbon development that emanates from the town of Kingscourt and the townland of Drumiller. At Tower 217, in the townland of Corlea (Clankee By), the alignment heads in a southerly direction and avoids the higher contours to the west at Cornamagh and the ribbon development on the lower slopes located to the west of the alignment and continues to Tower 224 in the townland of Dingin.
At Tower 224, in the townland of Dingin, the alignment traverses to the south-west to cross the R165 Kingscourt-Bailieborough road (approximately 3.2km west of Kingscourt), in order to avoid the ribbon development which extends from Kingscourt and to keep to the lower slopes of Lough-an-Lea, while maintaining a sufficient distance from Dύn-an-Rί Forest Park. The alignment route crosses several minor roads and passes to the north of Muff Lough.
At Tower 228 in the townland of Cordoagh (ED Enniskeen), the alignment proceeds in a southerly direction crossing some minor roads and avoiding Lough-an–Lea to the west and Ervey Lough to the east to Tower 237 in the townland of Clonturkan, County Cavan. The alignment crosses the existing Flagford–Louth 220 kV Line and follows this trajectory in order to avoid the ribbon development extending from Kingscourt.
From Tower 237 in the townland of Clonturkan, County Cavan, the line route proceeds in an easterly direction in the area of the boundary between counties Cavan and Meath, avoiding an ecologically sensitive area to the north, and a number of national monuments to the south. Between Tower 237 and Tower 242 in the townland of Tullyweel, the line route crosses two local roads.
The line route turns south-east at Tower 242 avoiding viewpoint VP21 (as detailed in the Meath County Development Plan (CDP)). The line route then crosses the R164 Regional Road between Towers 244 and 245, before turning south at Tower 245 in the townland of Lislea to avoid the railway line to the east, a cluster of national monuments and Newcastle Lough (which has recorded Whooper swan activity). Between Towers 245 and 248, the line route travels south south-east crossing agricultural land and small sections of forestry.”
RON PAGAN, Ardbraccan, Co. Meath, said they were unconvinced by EirGrid’s arguments for an overhead line. Mr Pagan, a retired chartered engineer, said in their area there were at least 32 households that would be within 100m of the centre of the power lines and he found that appalling.
ROISIN PAGAN, his wife, made an emotional appeal to the inspectors. She said their lives would be dramatically affected if the proposal went ahead. Please get EirGrid to listen to the people as no-one wanted these pylons, she said. This is not about reports and statistics, it’s about people’s lives, she said. Turning to face the EirGrid team, she concluded: “you guys are highly intelligent: please listen and try to show a different way”. She wondered how EirGrid thought they were going to get onto the land if they received planning permission.
RONNIE MCGRANE, Kells, a retired electrical contractor, has a holiday home near the entrance to LoughanLeagh forest, where he also operates a licensed telecommunications system for two-way radio and broadband. He asked EirGrid if they could assure him that the pylons and power lines would not interfere with his equipment. He claimed a nearby 220kV line that would cross under the North/South interconnector sometimes produced a hissing effect when passing beneath the cables. Mr McGrane said he favoured a sea path for the project from Dublin Bay to Belfast Lough, instead of overhead lines.
JARLATH FITZSIMONS SC for EirGrid told Mr McGrane it was not predicted there would be any impact on the operation of telecommunications equipment on his property. It was not necessary for EirGrid to notify COMREG about the proposal. He said a full suite of information had been provided by the company to designated bodies prescribed by the Board, such as the Irish Aviation Authority, which had expressed no concerns. He said a sub-sea route for the interconnector (as a number of other submissions had suggested) had been considered and was ruled out.
Mr McGrane was informed that there would be no significant impact on his property and overall the panoramic views from the house of five counties would remain as they were. He requested a drawing of what the cross-over point between the 400kV line and the 220kV Flagford to Louth line at Carrowreagh, Co. Cavan would look like and the amount of clearance between the cables. But EirGrid did not provide this on the day.
CHARLIE MULLIGAN, Clogher, Lough Egish, spoke about the choice of an amended access route through his land for pylon construction. He put it on the record that it was never his intention the alternative route he had suggested would in any way impact on a neighbour’s house by bringing traffic near it. He regretted that this would impact on his neighbour and it had not been his objective to cause any distress. He told the inspectors he had already stated clearly that he was totally opposed to the overhead lines and preferred an underground solution.
JARLATH FITZSIMONS SC for EirGrid explained how in the 75% of cases where the company had not been granted access, a suite of tools had been used by their consultants to study the land. This included LiDAR (3D laser scanning technology), which gave profile drawings of line clearance and illustrated the topography of any area. High quality aerial photography and Google maps were also used to plot access routes. LiDAR images were able to provide consultant archaeologist Declan Moore with details of a subterranean artefact, without having to access the land in question.
In response to NIGEL HILLIS of the County Monaghan Anti-Pylon committee, Mr Fitzsimons said development consent was not required regarding access routes. These routes had been identified and were put forward for the Board’s consideration in their overall assessment of the project. He said landowners had pointed out problems and had identified alternatives. He told the inspectors it was proposed to submit these (believed to number around 35) in addition to the original proposals. So in some areas TWO routes would be set out on maps for the Board as part of the environmental impact statement.
The access routes are marked with yellow dashes; the amended ones are outlined with purple dashes. This means both the yellow and purple routes, where applicable, will be put forward as the EIS must remain as when it was submitted in June 2015.