This section dealt with landscape and visual impacts

Joerg Schulze consultant landscape architect for EirGrid responded to comments on day nine by Toirleach Gourley, senior planner Monaghan County Council, about eight photomontages taken at points along the line in Co. Monaghan having limited legibility of pylons. He also replied to comments about the effect on the Monaghan Way at Lemgare Rocks near Clontibret.

Mr Schulze explained the process by which the photomontages had been assembled, using computer software with a 3D model of the proposed structure. If this picture was enhanced then it would produce an image that was not as close to reality.

He accepted that a small part of the Monaghan Way walking route would be affected. In selecting the route for the pylons, he had walked along parts of the Monaghan Way including the section at Mullyash mountain that were within the study area. He accepted that one pylon (tower 109) where the line crossed a local road at Lemgare Rocks near Clontibret would have a significant localized impact. 


The proposed interconnector from Woodland in Co. Meath to Turleenan in Co. Tyrone using overhead power lines “will not have a significant impact” on views from the important site at the Hill of Tara, according to EirGrid. But a consultant for Meath County Council claimed there would be high or very high impact on a view of national significance.

The differences emerged at the Bord Pleanála oral hearing in Carrickmacross into the plan for what is said to be one of the biggest ever pieces of infrastructure in the state. Joerg Schulze, consultant landscape architect for EirGrid, said that seen from the hill, the transmission line to the east would not dominate the landscape. It would be located in the middle distance, with the closest pylon being 6.29km away and would not be immediately apparent from that standpoint.

Concerns were also expressed by Meath County Council planners about the effect on Brittas demesne near Nobber, where a 74m wide swathe of mature woodland would have to be removed to make way for the overhead line.

The Hill of Tara with its Iron Age hilltop enclosure is Ireland’s ancient capital. It is a candidate UNESCO world heritage site, nominated by the government in 2010 on a list of properties considered to have cultural and/or natural heritage of outstanding universal value. Tara is one of five royal sites that represent ‘unique expressions of Irish society’ as places of royal inauguration, ceremony and assembly, representing each of the five provinces of ancient Ireland.

EirGrid says that in identifying a potential route for the interconnector it took into account key constraints such as architectural and archaeological heritage sites. Landscapes sensitive to visual impact and soil type, areas designated for nature conservation and the location of dwellings and buildings were also considered.

Meath County Council engaged Conor Skehan of planning and environmental consultants CAAS Ltd to assess all designated scenic viewpoints that were included in the County Development Plan. He concluded that seven views including Tara and at Bective Bridge would be affected by the proposed development.

EirGrid says the viewpoint in close proximity of Lia Fáil within the Tara Complex was located outside the 5km study area for the line route but had been included due to its elevation and available panoramic views. It states that “The landscape in this unit forms part of the cluster of low flat hills that includes the Hill of Tara. The flat nature of the surrounding landscape means that panoramic views are possible even from slightly elevated areas. The landscape is man altered and made up of medium to large scale fields within a network of roads including three regional roads and hedgerows which generally limit views into the landscape.” The magnitude of change and impact caused by the proposed development is considered negligible and not significant, the company concluded.

Landscape architect Joerg Schulze for EirGrid acknowledged that while he agreed with most of the assessments made by Mr Skehan, there was a considerable difference of opinion with Meath County Council regarding the effect on Tara. He said that in preparing photomontages from that viewpoint, he had very clearly attained what was and was not visible.

He showed the photomontages to the planning inspectors along with a picture that by using standard computer software superimposed the line of the pylons. Mr Schulze pointed out that an existing 220kV line from Gorman to Maynooth that was only 1.25km away was not immediately apparent and was barely discernible in the photomontages. The proposed 400 kV development would be located approximately 4.5 to 5km further away from this 220kV line and would be seen entirely against the land, which would reduce the general visibility of this type of development significantly further, according to EirGrid.

But Mr Skehan for Meath County Council was of the opinion that in this area the transmission line and associated towers would have an effect under many different lighting conditions.

In winter, he said, in conditions of low light and clear skies, the development would be noticeable over a wide area. In summer, with lots of clouds moving over the landscape, and partly light, it would also become noticeable.

EirGrid was also questioned by the presiding inspector about the effect of the proposed line on demesnes in Co. Meath, especially Brittas near Nobber. Mr Schulze revealed that the visual impact of the line had been assessed from public roads only, as many private properties were not accessible. The impact on the landscape at Brittas had been found to be significant as the planning included the removal of mature woodland.

Approximately 2.7 acres of mature woodland might have to be removed to allow for a maximum 74m wide corridor. The line route runs parallel to the public road in this location, and whilst the road was generally heavily vegetated, intermittent views into the estate were possible. At a gate lodge at an entrance to Brittas estate, the conductors would be visible crossing the road (as shown in a photomontage) and towers would be partially visible from the local road adjoining the estate in locations where boundary vegetation was thin, according to the landscape and visual impact assessment.

EirGrid had been asked earlier in the hearing why it had not included in this photograph the nearest pylon, which was 245m away from the gate lodge. The NEPPC had argued that the photomontages were not representative of the impact of the proposed infrastructure on the environment. The reply was that all the photography and photomontages had complied with Landscape Institute guidelines.

Mr Schulze explained that taking the overhead line through the Brittas demesne would have the least impact on being able to view it from public roads. If the route was moved away from the woodland it would be closer to the village of Nobber. But Meath County Council architectural conservation officer Jill Chadwick said the line would have a significant impact on Brittas House.

The EirGrid consultant was also asked about an option that had been examined for putting underground a short 3km section of the route between ten proposed pylons, instead of removing the woodland at Brittas. The company’s assessment was that there were no impacts of such significance envisaged, including those on landscape, which would introduce the need for consideration of partial undergrounding for the proposed development at this location. The inspector also asked EirGrid about the effect at Ardbraccan demesne.

Questions to presiding inspector by two Co. Monaghan residents Mary Marron and Margaret Marron from Shantonagh. Mary Marron asked when EirGrid would be producing maps for the nineteen landowners where the company had revealed it would require a new access point to their land for construction work, because of anomalies in the maps supplied in the original application last year. She claimed that people were being denied information that they needed in order to make a proper submission to the hearing. She also wanted to know the size and capacity of the machines to be used in construction, and how long the temporary matting to be used for some access roads into fields would remain in place. Landowners did not know physically how their holdings would be affected.

Margaret Marron said landowners were “up in arms” over EirGrid’s approach to the hearing. They did not have the expertise available to them that the company did. They needed to have the full information before them.

Responding for EirGrid Jarlath FitzSimons SC said the company would provide landowners within the week the new information containing 25 access route modifications. (These were hand delivered by courier on Good Friday). He said construction would take place over a period of three years but it was not a programme of work. The company would deal with individual issues as they arose when the hearing came to examine the concerns of specific land holders. The relevant experts would be made available at the stage required, he said.

Tom Corr, a consultant for EirGrid, (native of Killeevan, Co. Monaghan) is one of the authors of a report commissioned by the company into the potential relationship between property values and high voltage overhead transmission lines in Ireland, published last month. He told the inspectors that farmland process along the proposed interconnector route were not expected to be affected at all.

Working with Professor of Statistics at the University of Limerick Dr Cathal Walsh, their survey found that the presence of pylons or overhead lines had “no significant impact” on prices of residential and farm properties. It concluded that “the perception of potential decreases in sales value as a result of high-voltage overhead lines close to property far outweighs the reality borne out in actual sales data”. Where negative impacts were found there was evidence to suggest that they generally decreased with time, the study said.

An EirGrid policy consultant on compensation William Mongey revealed that the company is providing €4 million for a local community fund to be administered in conjunction with local authorities. EirGrid will contribute €40,000 per kilometre for communities in proximity to new 400kV pylons and stations. For owners of property there would be a proximity payment of €30,000 for residences at 50m from the proposed line. This would decrease to €5,000 at 200m. EirGrid said it sought to locate new lines at least 50m from homes but in exceptional cases where this was not achievable it would deal with the affected property owners on an individual basis. The total set aside for this compensation is €4.6 million.




Michael Fisher  Northern Standard

Brian Murray S.C. for EirGrid confirmed that any work around the pylons would be within the 19m red line space indicated on maps supplied to the Planning Board. He clarified that there would also be a 30m working area around each of the pylons.

This working area would have fencing around it but the erection of the fencing would not involve excavation in any circumstances as the fencing would be free-standing.

Replying to a claim that in some cases temporary access routes to a pylon crossed walls, Mr Murray said if they had been identified, then EirGrid had addressed them by alternative routes and they were happy to address such matters if they were drawn to their attention. His colleague Jarlath Fitzsimons S.C. pointed out that the laying of mats and temporary fencing at a site did not constitute a development and EirGrid had clearly stated this. There would be no removal of gateposts at any location in the Republic, he added.

This section dealt with public and landowner consultation.


Allen McAdam, a representative of the County Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee, said the public consultation process had been selectively used by EirGrid to produce the desired outcome. He said the project would bring no economic benefit to Monaghan. However EirGrid said it had carried out consultation that had been meaningful and accountable in accordance with international principles. It also acknowledged that lessons had been learned from feedback received regarding the proposed development. All comments had been brought back and used by the project team.

The social and economic development consultant from Carrickmacross said CMAPC had major concerns in relation to the methodology, approach and execution of the public consultation undertaken by EirGrid and its agents. In the absence of generic national guidelines on best practice in public consultation, the experience by consultees along the proposed line route of the methods used for this project varied from confusing to chaotic.

Mr McAdam is a former chief executive of Cavan/Monaghan LEADER with experience of public consultation processes. He is not one of the landowners directly affected by the construction of pylons but his house is 350m away from the nearest pylon.

He said the consultation process had failed from the outset to provide the general public with adequate visibility of the project. Almost eight years after the process came into the public domain, EirGrid representatives started contacting schools, community groups to try and infiltrate local communities and bribe them with ‘community gain’ money. Mr McAdam claimed this was an underhand approach and a serious interference in the planning process, which the committee understood was a semi-judicial process.

The marketing of mis-information about the project was executed very professionally, he claimed. When the regional action plan for jobs was published by the Department of Jobs Enteprise and Innovation, the interconnector project featured as a driver of job creation, without any evidence to suggest benefit. This was the type of spin consultees on the project had to deal with, he told the inquiry.

Mr McAdam continued: “Let us be clear: this project has no economic benefits to Co. Monaghan. This project can be compared to a motorway going through Monaghan with no roads on or off. No electricity can be put onto this line except in Tyrone or in Meath, as there is no substation in the area.”

“The time has come for the smoke and mirrors to be pushed aside. This line is being developed solely to supply electricity to Northern Ireland, plain and simple. When we talk of strategic infrastructure, of strategic importance to whom are we referring. The answer is quite simple our neighbours in Northern Ireland, not of strategic importance to the Republic of Ireland.”

“The question needs to be asked as to why are the needs of the people of Monaghan in terms of protecting their properties, they livelihoods, their countryside and their beautiful corner of rural Ireland being sold out to accommodate the needs of Northern Ireland, who through lack of foresight and proper future- and resilience-proofing of their electricity supply needs, find themselves in a position where they will run out of electricity in a few short years. I ask the question: are the views and needs of the residents of Northern Ireland more valued than the residents of County Monaghan?”

There was no evidence to suggest any meaningful feedback was collated and relayed to the people of Monaghan, he said. In a number of cases regarding the route access point for construction of pylons, the landowners were not approached or contacted by any means to inform them of the proposal contained in this planning application until a few short days prior to the lodging of this second EirGrid application.

Accountable consultation meant a project only moved forward once each phase had been appropriately dealt with. Obviously EirGrid thought it was appropriate to move from the final re-evaluation stage to the preferred project solution stage in just six weeks without taking into account the consultation that was held in Co. Monaghan.

Mr McAdam told the inspectors that in March 2015, EirGrid reviewed the line and moved eleven pylons in Monaghan without so much as a shred of public consultation or indeed consultation with the affected landowners. They were just issued new maps and in essence told to like it or lump it.

County Monaghan Anti Pylon Committee organised three consultation/information events in May 2013 in the local community centres of the affected areas (Cremartin, Aughnamullen and Corduff-Raferagh) in order to facilitate EirGrid. In excess of 600 people attended these events but yet again the genuine concerns presented to EirGrid were dismissed and relegated to an appendix in their final report which was published swiftly a few short weeks later.

A short one-page questionnaire was developed and made available for completion as attendees left the consultation after meeting EirGrid representatives. Of the 600 or so that attended, 460 questionnaires were completed.

Summary of key findings

  • 65% of respondents were local residents, 34% landowners directly affected and 1% public representatives.
  • 95% of respondents attended the consultation sessions to lodge an objection.
  • 99% of respondents indicated that they were not in favour of the project in its current format.
  • 53% felt that there questions were only partly answered by Eirgrid staff and 38% felt that their questioned were unanswered.
  • 58% went to the consultations with a specific question they wanted answered, 9% had their question answered, 53% had it partly answered and 38% not at all.

The numbers of landowners with property directly in the path of the line route who have participated in the consultation process has not been documented or acknowledged, nor has the large percentage that have expressed concerns or opposition to the project through their properties.

It is therefore factually correct to say that the results of the consultation process were skewed and interpreted in an unfair manner, with a pre determined result in mind, which is in keeping with the pre-planning consultation meeting for the first attempt at this application with An Bord Pleanala in July 2007.

To this day no detailed breakdown of the results of the consultation process with the general public has been published. The opinions and views of landowners, community organisations or the broader local community have not been published. The only information that has been published is correspondence from state agencies that are in support of the project. This selective publication has proven divisive and counter productive and does nothing to generate any confidence in the planning and consultation process.

In conclusion Mr McAdam said the Anti-Pylon Committee felt strongly that the consultation process had fallen far short of what should be required for a project of this magnitude. They accepted that levels of engagement did improve the second time around, however no credence was given to the views of the vast majority of those that did participate.


Padraig O’Reilly of North East Pylon Pressure Campaign said there was a widely held view that the consultation process was a sham and a pretence. It was quite clear, he said, that EirGrid had pre-determined the type of application and the overhead nature of the line. From day one there were no plans to make any changes despite EirGrid’s rhetoric about consultation with landowners and members of the public.

Mr O’Reilly referred to the fact that the ballroom where the public hearing was taking place was quite empty on Wednesday compared to the previous hearing in 2010 when many objectors were present. He claimed this highlighted the lack of confidence and disillusionment among landowners in the way the process had gone over the last six years since EirGrid withdrew the previous application.

He added that the lack of public attendance was not a message that there was any reduction in resistance to the overhead lines proposal. It was still a very live issue and his group had held a number of very well attended public meetings in the past year to discuss their opposition. He told the inspectors there was no genuine plan by EirGrid to consult or to get information on landowners. The manner they had gone about it was unacceptable, he said.

He said a large number of landowners were totally unaware that EirGrid intended to use their land and property to get access to construct pylons on a neighbour’s lands. In addition, some of those landowners that were designated for having pylons erected on their property were unaware of plans by EirGrid to seek an access route that would go on a neighbour’s land.

The NEPPC representative quoted a letter from one landowner the group was representing at the hearing. He told them he had been totally unaware of what was being proposed for his property until they told him. EirGrid was planning to use his house entrance for an access route that would go through his property. He would be obliged to demolish a stables to allow access to his neighbour’s property.

The NEPPC representative pointed out that there had been no public or site notices about the proposed access routes for construction of the pylons. He claimed that in the current application the EirGrid submission had used a lot of the information that had been shared with them six years ago.

A company that had loads of resources should be doing its own job properly, he said. For that reason he was not in a position to give the company information about the problems of individual landowners on this occasion.

Mr O’Reilly claimed that photomontages submitted by EirGrid were not representative of the impact on the environment of the planned pylons. The photos rarely showed a house, he said. He compared three pictures provided by the Board with three of their own, which he said showed more clearly the effect of having a pylon close to a house


Neasa Kane is a consultant with RPS Project Communications which has been advising EirGrid on handling the public consultation exercise. She said that the company had learned lessons since the last application. Consultation had been meaningful and accountable. The feedback received regarding the proposed development had been brought back and used by the project team.

She said the company had adopted multiple channels in reaching out to people to ensure there was an awareness of the project at all stages. These included the establishment of a low-cost phone line, publishing brochures, opening information centres including one in Carrickmacross, extensive media campaigns and additional events.

Regarding a claim by the NEPPC and CMAPC that some landowners affected by the construction of the pylons were not identified by Eirgrid, project engineer Shane Brennan said as they as far they were aware, all landowners were identified based on the most recent and up-to-date land registry information.

The presiding inspector accepted that Eirgrid were constrained by the land registry information, but said the issue would come up at a later point in the oral hearing.


Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West Matt Carthy attended the first day of the oral hearing along with Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín. Mr Carthy said: “The plan to construct 299 pylons at 26-51 metres height each through the counties of Monaghan, Cavan and Meath is fiercely opposed by the vast majority within our communities.”

He went on: “It is my firm belief that EirGrid have failed to understand the depth of local opposition to the construction of these pylons. Sinn Féin representatives have been working closely with all those groups and communities across Monaghan, Armagh, Cavan and Meath who have been campaigning on this issue since 2007 and it is clear that their determination is as resolute as ever. The concerns of local communities are very real; there are genuine concerns in relation to health, safety, the environment and economic development of the areas concerned.”

“The position of these communities is very clear – this project can only proceed if undergrounded. Sinn Féin supports this stance – the party has prepared a submission to an Bord Pleanála and my colleague Peadar Toibín prepared legislation on this issue during the last Dáil term. The fact is that EirGrid have been able to underground other projects on a similar scale such as Grid West and Grid Link and it has been confirmed that undergrounding is also possible in this case.”

“Indeed, many argue that in the medium to long term, undergrounding is economically beneficial. Of course, in order to address this issue in the comprehensive manner it requires there is an onus on the new government, when it is in place, to direct that all high voltage power line networks proceed only on the basis of undergrounding.”