This section involved landowners and groups from Co. Monaghan. Part of it focused on the small townland of Cornasassonagh, which has twenty houses and is one of the most populated townlands in South Monaghan.
MARY MARRON, Corbane, spoke on behalf of her husband Philip and their two children. They owned farmland in Ummerafree and Cornasassonagh. Their extended family had lived and farmed in these townlands for generations and were horrified at the proposed development.
She said the construction of the proposed 400kV overhead power line would have a serious detrimental effect on the Monaghan countryside from a farming aspect. Owing to the drumlin landscape, field sizes tended to be small. By placing pylons in a field or along a hedgerow, it would have an enormous impact on the usable space relative to the size of the field. Trees and hedgerows contributed significantly to biodiversity and landscape character in County Monaghan.
From the family home, they could see as far as Derrylin, Co Fermanagh on a clear day and the wind turbines in Latton were clearly visible all year round. The visual impact of the proposed pylons would be immense. She told the inspectors she would be able to see at least six pylons from the front of her house and ten to twelve pylons from their stables.
Their land at Ummerafree consisted of four small fields, totalling 12 acres in size, representing one-third of their total farmland. They also rented approximately 20 acres on the opposite side of the road, where it was proposed that pylon no. 181 would be erected.
EirGrid proposed to enter their land through what they referred to as an existing track. It was in fact a rough path leading from the entrance gate across the river. The gateway into this “track” was 4m wide and wholly unsuitable for large machinery, she said. The lower sections of the fields were wet and marshy and not suitable for driving across for the majority of the year. EirGrid had not advised them what time of year they intended to complete the works. If it was to be during Spring/Summer, this would have an impact on slurry/fertiliser spreading and grazing. If they intended to complete the works during Autumn/Winter, the ground would be too wet to drive on and would be churned up. Our land would be irreversibly devalued by the development and any future development planned by our children would be restricted.
EirGrid proposed to erect the pylon on one of the steepest parts of the land and extensive excavation would be needed. With this excavation came the issue of the slippage of the remaining soil on the upper section of the hill and access to and from this site. To the best of her knowledge, EirGrid had not stated how they proposed to excavate the volume of soil necessary, whether they intended to dispose it or store it on site. The disposal and removal of spoil materials must be accounted for and not left to others to address, she said.
EirGrid mentioned that the land would be reinstated to its original condition once the development was completed. She wondered how long this would take. Because of the pylons, they would not be able to carry out normal farming practices such as slurry spreading, owing to the dangers involved. They would not be able to pass safely beneath the wires with tractors as the sag would be too low due to the gradient and the distance from the adjoining pylons. It would be unsafe to carry out drainage works, reseeding, etc in the vicinity of the pylons thus preventing them from carrying out land improvement works and furthering the business potential of the land.
They had two herds of pedigree Charolais cattle and bloodstock which they grazed both on the affected land and the rented land. Charolais cattle and bloodstock by their nature were highly strung and flighty and would be sensitive both to the volume and variety of traffic and people moving through the fields and the associated noise. They could become very aggressive when confronted by the unknown. This could lead to a bull or cow attacking construction personnel with deadly consequences. How will EirGrid mitigate against this?, she asked.
The health of our livestock is paramount, she said. The Department of Agriculture had very strict guidelines on the movement of cattle and the spread of disease and they would be concerned about disease being carried onto their lands from adjoining farms by the machinery. They were also extremely concerned about the issue of insurance.
They were concerned about the health and safety aspects of the development. They had serious concerns about the damage that would be caused to the roads, the safety of the community that used them and the safety of livestock that walked them. The road networks in Co Monaghan especially in the Corduff area were wholly unsuitable for the volume and type of vehicles that would be required if the development went ahead. Many were single lane roads on which two vehicles were incapable of passing unless one pulled into a gateway.
Noise pollution from overhead high voltage lines was of huge concern, particularly in wet weather. Mrs Marron said the noise from the 110kv power line currently running alongside her family home was horrendous during damp weather and it was like having someone welding outside the window.
It seems that once again, EirGrid had submitted a farcical planning application, with no regard to the landowners and local communities of the affected counties. It was beyond belief how this oral hearing had been permitted to proceed, when EirGrid had continuously shown themselves to be incompetent. The fact that they had been permitted to produce maps twice at this stage detailing new access routes was absurd and they had reserved the right to produce more if they deemed it necessary. Today they were actually redoing an access route as the observers looked on. EirGrid had produced a seriously flawed and misleading Environmental Impact Statement and were now being allowed to redo it as they went along, using information provided by the landowners and communities.
“Over the past five years I have as a member of the Monaghan Anti Pylon Committee attended meeting after meeting with EirGrid representatives, where they were always willing to take concerns on board, only to find out afterwards that it was a box- ticking exercise.”
She went on: “I have sat at this oral hearing and indeed the previous one listening to parents crying while putting their private business in the public domain pleading with Bord Pleanála to take their childrens’ medical needs into account when deciding the outcome of this application when EirGrid would not. I have watched changes to landowner maps being discussed and put in the public domain without landowners having received prior notification. I have watched as landowners have asked question after question without ever receiving a straight answer. EirGrid’s experts have hidden behind sub- sections and modules from day one and have been allowed to do so by you, the inspectors. In the event that they are being put under pressure the legal team comes to the rescue and if this is still not enough the questioner is then instructed to move on. There seems to be a rush to get this oral hearing finished. Why?
You the Board and EirGrid are being paid to be here and do your job. Landowners and other observers are here having taken time off work and putting our case forward at our own expense.”
Mary Marron concluded: “Observers have noted the huge complement of staff and legal expertise which EirGrid have at their disposal. A seemingly bottomless pit of money to get this project pushed through, who despite already having failed once seem to have learned nothing. The might of the State against the little man – though as Leicster City FC have proved, sometimes the little man can win.
From day one this project has had no public acceptance. Anything landowners and observers have witnessed in the conduct of this oral hearing has only served to reinforce their determination that this 400kV line will never be built overground through the counties of Monaghan, Cavan and Meath”.
CON CURTIN, agricultural consultant, said there were no effects on the health of livestock from electromagnetic fields. He also explained measures that the designated contarctor would be taking to prevent the spread of animal disease.
NOEL FOX, Tullyglass, said he had never been properly consulted by EirGrid and did not want EirGrid to put two pylons on his land. The construction work would completely disrupt his farm and work. There was only one access to his farm and he needed it at all times. He would not allow EirGrid in.
“This is my home”, he told the inspectors.
PEADAR CLINTON, Bocks Lower, said their forefathers had fought for the land one hundred years ago. Now the company was taking their freedom away, but the people of Monaghan and Cavan would not let EirGrid do so. He pointed out that there was a pond on his land where moorhen were breeding. He was afraid of the adverse effect the line would cause.
Dr PATRICK CRUSHELL, consultant ecologist for EirGrid said ecology impacts and precautionary mitigation regarding wildfowl, including moorhen, had been considered as part of the Environmental Impact Statement. The pond mentioned by Mr Clinton was identified in the habitat maps and report. Dr Crushell said moorhen would be expected to continue to use the pond notwithstanding the construction and operation of the proposed development.
OWEN and HELEN MCCABE with their neighbours PATSY and ANN IRWIN, Cornasassonagh, said the proposed line was going to have a massive visual impact on what was a very scenic area. Mr McCabe said the wires would be 62m from their kitchen table. His wife Helen said three towers would be visible from their house at all times. The nearest pylon would be 156m away from their home and farm.
SEAMUS MARRON, Cornasassonagh, questioned the access route for a guarding area that EirGrid had proposed. The map showed it going through an eight foot high wall at the end of his farmyard. There was also a well close to the guarding area.
ROBERT ARTHUR for EirGrid said they did not intend to remove the wall but would used another viable entrance to the field at that point. JOHN DILLON, a consultant environmental engineer, said they would monitor the water quality at the well and would take samples to ensure it was not affected by the construction work. In a number of similar cases he told landowners EirGrid would ensure that an alternative supply such as a water tanker was supplied and the well would be restored to its original condition, if any damage was caused.
DES MARRON, Cornasassonagh, said he had not been contacted by EirGrid and he had no intention of letting them put up a pylon on his land. Nobody wanted the pylons and they would all do whatever it took to stop them going up. Don’t waste any more money: put the wires underground, he told EirGrid.
PHILIP MALONE, Cornasassonagh, said the power lines would cause complete destruction to his farm and house. He was concerned that vibrations from the machinery used to access the construction site would cause damage to the foundations of an old stone house that he was renovating.
BARRY SHERIDAN, acoustic consultant, said they could monitor the building using sensors to ensure that any vibrations were within the prescribed limits.
PLUNKETT CORRIGAN, Cornasassonagh, said the proposed route of the lines would overlook one of the most scenic areas in Monaghan. There was a big area of wetlands in the area and he expressed concern about the potential effects on wildlife including whooper swans, snipe, badgers and birds. The EirGrid EIS report had not mentioned the wetlands, he claimed.
Dr PATRICK CRUSHELL, consultant ecologist for EirGrid, said the Bocks Lough site was not officially designated. He said the wetlands had been evaluated from the roadside and the development would not have an effect. The flight path of whooper swans did not regularly cross the route of the line here.
ALAN MCMAHON owns land at Corbane. He said he had not received maps from EirGrid for consultation. A lawyer for EirGrid said the first correspondence with Mr McMahon had been in May 2015. When EirGrid were asked to check their records, it was discovered that they had written to a previous title holder in 2013. After further questioning it was discovered that the company had been notified by the Property Registration Authority in October 2014 of a change in ownership. This was a blatant breach of consultation, according to Nigel Hillis of CMAPC.
EDGAR EAKINS, Corduff, posed a series of questions to EirGrid. He said the power lines would affect GPS equipment used by agricultural contractors. He had concerns about his children playing under the lines and the potential effects on health. “I do not want EirGrid coming onto my property. I am prepared to go to jail if this line goes ahead and if I go to jail, then my children will go as well”, he told the inspectors.
AIDAN GEOGHEGAN, EirGrid Project Manager, said overhead lines would not interfere with any GPS system as they were designed to be immune from interference from such lines.
Mr Eakins had further questions about the effect on farming practices and these were put to EirGrid by ALLEN MCADAM. He wanted to know what would happen if farmers were members of the new agri-environment scheme GLAS and needed to reinstate any ground that was damaged during the construction of pylons. Mr McAdam said that farmers in the scheme could be penalized for re-seeding low input and permanent pasture.
JIMMY MARRON and HUGH FINNEGAN, Ummerafree, raised questions about access routes and the devaluation of land which they believed the interconnector would cause. “The lines would go right across my farm and would put me out of business”, Mr Finnegan said.
ROBERT ARTHUR of ESB International said there would be no sterilisation of land outside the footprint of each pylon.
PAUL KEENAN, Sreenty, was concerned about the positioning of pylon 186 which he said would be sticking out like a sore thumb. It was probably the highest along the route and it would be on a par with Corduff mountain. There was a 360 degree panoramic view from the hill, and you could see as far as Dundalk Bay and the Mournes.
Mr Keenan said the project was being built to supply the UK at our expense. Local people should not be sacrificed for someone else’s power needs, in his view. EirGrid had no morals at all, he claimed. He said they were totally opposed to the plan. Under no circumstances would EirGrid be allowed on their land so that they would suffer in future, he concluded to applause from the other objectors present.
Some landowners posed a direct question to EirGrid staff and to the inspectors, asking them how they would like to live in a house beside a pylon and power lines.
JARLATH FITZSIMONS SC for EirGrid said individual opinions were not a determining factor. The process was about the proper planning and sustainable development of the project and submissions received that were relevant to the assessment to be made by the Board. He also said there would be no micro-siting of the proposed pylons. Their position had been identified and would not be subject to any deviation.