IMPACT ON CO. CAVAN DISCUSSED AS INTERCONNECTOR ORAL HEARING ENDS
EIRGRID ACCUSED OF BULLYING LOCAL PEOPLE
Michael Fisher ANGLO-CELT Wednesday 25th May
EirGrid has been accused of bullying and of showing disregard and disrespect for people in Cavan, Monaghan and Meath affected by the company’s plan to build an overhead high voltage North/South electricity interconnector. Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty TD (Meath East) along with two Sinn Féin TDs were among those who made closing submissions on Monday to the two inspectors at an oral hearing in Carrickmacross. Ms Doherty called on An Bord Pleanála when making their decision to take into account the impact the plan would have on real lives, which she said could not be underestimated.
The application to build a 400kV overhead line with almost 300 pylons stretching 135km from Meath through part of Cavan and Monahan to Armagh and Tyrone was made eleven months ago. It has been examined in detail at the oral hearing that began in March and lasted 35 days. It was one of the biggest ever such enquiries into what is said to be the largest single infrastructure development in the state in recent years.
Sinn Féin Cavan/Monaghan Deputy Caoimghín Ó Caoláin said the lives, hopes, plans and ambitions of people had been suspended in midair for the past nine years as a result of the application. If EirGrid thought the repeated statements that had been made favouring an underground route were a bluff, then let them call their bluff and they would see how strong the support was for undergrounding the interconnector.
The anti-pylon group North East Pylon Pressure Campaign representing 200 landowners in Cavan and Meath told the inspectors the EirGrid planning application remained invalid and should be rejected. Dr Padraig O’Reilly said multiple changes to the application that had been made during the eleven weeks oral hearing were an unacceptable waste of public monies. He said An Bord Pleanála had a duty not only to reject the application outright, but to direct that an appropriate alternative be considered for the future.
NEPPC claimed EirGrid had taken an ‘à la carte’ approach to the planning application. For example there were now a series of options regarding access routes, guarding construction methods, concrete delivery methods, off-loading of concrete, traffic movements and traffic management options. This approach according to the group was contrary to all normal planning guidelines and instructions for the rest of the country.
EFFECT ON KINGSCOURT
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.
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.
KEVIN BRADY, Principal Officer in charge of Strategic Energy Policy at the former Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, said a white paper on energy (Ireland’s Transition to a Low carbon Energy Future) was published in December last year. Mr Brady said the government was not seeking to determine specific details of the interconnector scheme or to direct EirGrid about particular sites, routes or technology.
A second interconnector would fulfil the three core energy policy requirements of competitiveness, security of supply and sustainability. The proposal had been designated as an EU project of common interest. They needed to ensure there was access to wider markets and both Ireland and Northern Ireland would benefit from security of supply by having a single system across the island, Mr Brady said.
EIRGRID CLOSING SUBMISSION
Brian Murray SC for EirGrid said the proposed infrastructure was necessary to overcome the risk of system separation and to increase transfer capacity between the two electricity transmission systems on the island. It was required to achieve the absolutely critical objectives of improving market competition in the context of the Single Electricity Market, to support the development of renewable power generation and to improve the security of supply.
Mr Murray said the use of Direct Current (DC) as opposed to AC current was considered. A DC option would be suboptimal as it would not provide the same level of reliability and security of supply as an AC solution. He said there was no example of a comparable HVDC scheme embedded in an AC system. Mr Murray also spoke of the environmental considerations in the proposal.
On public consultation carried out as part of the project, Mr Murray said “this project has been the subject of exhaustive consultation. It is not and never was a ‘box ticking’ exercise”.
The lawyer for the company addressed the issue of temporary access routes, which had been raised on several occasions during the hearing. He said the access routes did not form part of the development. Therefore, no part of the development had changed in any way in the course of the hearing. The access routes had been included as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). For that reason, EirGrid had quite properly taken account of information gathered in the course of that process.
It was in this context, he said, that EirGrid brought a number of access routes to the attention of the attendees at the hearing in order to enable the Board to assess the modifications proposed to those access routes. These had been advised to the affected landowners.
Mr Murray concluded “EirGrid submits that the second North-South Interconnector is a project which is critically necessary. It is a project which we believe can only be sustainably developed in the manner proposed, and it is a project which minimises adverse impacts to the greatest extent possible.”
The inspectors will now prepare a report for the Board, which is expected to announce its decision later this year.