This section dealt with material assets: general and traffic

Acting senior engineer with Monaghan County Council John McKernan said EirGrid’s response to submissions last year was too vague on a number of traffic issues. It did not provide any detail in relation to the transport of excess soil from the foundations of the proposed towers to the waste disposal sites. This was particularly in respect of egress from the access routes onto the public road, and the provision of visibility splays at the point of emergence onto the public road.

The response provided merely repeated what had been stated in the original application relating to the use of dumper trucks to deliver concrete to the foundations. He said the company’s response did not provide any detail regarding the off-loading of the concrete from the delivery truck at the public road, and the loading of the dumpers being used to deliver the concrete down the access lanes to the site of the towers.

Mr McKernan said no detail was given regarding the off-loading of the steel framework from the delivery truck at the public road and the loading of the vehicles being used to deliver the steel framework to the sites. EirGrid had still not addressed the key issues regarding the physical capacity of a number of the access routes to accommodate the traffic movements between the public road and the tower sites. He said no realistic measures had been provided to address the issues raised regarding any accommodation works and relating to the control of lands in order to carry out such works.

On the question of how much surplus soil and rock would be generated by excavation at the tower sites and taken away to a licensed waste management site, the ‘worst case scenario’ envisaged by EirGrid was said to be approximately 10,500 cubic metres. Mr McKernan said reasonable figures were required from the company in respect of waste soil generated at each tower location, in order to ascertain the volume of traffic movements generated on the affected public roads.

Regarding the frequency of construction traffic on narrow roads in Monaghan, Mr McKernan said concerns remained that a number of towers would be constructed at the same time in the same area, leading to a significant amount of traffic using the public road. He asked for specific details of the phasing of the construction work in order to allay the Council’s concerns.

Some of the haul routes were quite convoluted. No proposals had been put forward to prevent contractors using public roads that would provide more direct routes for access to towers. EirGrid had proposed to carry out a pre- and post-construction video survey of the road pavements and verges on the haul routes. But this was insufficient in his opinion and a full mechanical machine survey of the public roads involved should be made at least three months in advance of works commencing.

Finally, the use of flag men would not resolve difficulties regarding delivery trucks blocking the public road while parked for off-loading. Nor would it resolve conflicts between large delivery trucks meeting day-to-day traffic traversing the road.

Along with senior planner Toirleach Gourley Mr McKernan continued to interrogate EirGrid about when Monaghan County Council would be provided with specific foundation details for each of the 134 proposed towers in the county and part of Cavan near Kingscourt. EirGrid lawyer Jarlath Fitzsimons SC insisted the relevant information had already been provided in the application and response to submissions. Statements that there was inadequate or no information were without substance, he said. He told the presiding inspector it was not a function of Monaghan County Council to reject the information.

We are looking at new and significant information, Mr Gourley stated. It differed from what had been published in the environmental impact statement. He said he had identified gaps in the EirGrid information. As a result the Council could not examine the impact of construction vehicle movements such as concrete lorries on local roads. The latest information they received conflicted with the information presented on behalf of EirGrid yesterday.

Asked by the inspector about information on traffic movements and towers, consultant engineer Tom Cannon said there had been a robust traffic assessment and the figures provided were an over-estimation of what would be required. He said there would be excavated material during the construction of the proposed development, specifically in relation to the tower foundations. Typically 34 m3 of excess soil would be excavated at each intermediate tower location with approximately 230 m3 of excess soil excavated from angle towers. In the case of three angle 90 degree angle towers the excavations would be deeper, requiring more concrete to be laid and more soil to be removed. It was stated that 96 of the 104 intermediate towers would not require piling. A worst case scenario would be that all excavated material amounting to 10,500m3 for all the towers in Monaghan would be sent off-site to a licenced waste recovery facility. He indicated that there were a number of potential storage sites in Monaghan, including the proposed temporary yard outside Carrickmacross.

But senior planner Toirleach Gourley pointed out that because the licence was coming to an end at one site and another two had been filled with soil from the new factory development on the Monaghan by-pass, the possibilities for disposal were restricted. His estimate was that there was approximately 17,000 m3 of soil to be disposed off as there was an extra 7000 cubic metres intended for the storage yard over and above what was in the environmental assessment.

Jarlath Fitzsimons SC said EirGrid had used information that was publicly available at the time of the planning application in June last year. It was not possible to use a crystal ball to predict the possible landfill sites when the line came to be constructed. Mr Cannon, he said, had indicated some of the sites that might be available. There was a wide sweep of potential disposal areas provided. Different areas would be required at different times. Mr Gourley, he said, seemed to be arguing for perfection in the environmental impact statement.

Robert Arthur of ESB International repeated the various stages of construction that would be required for the towers and gave details of the timescale involved. John McKernan asked for details of concrete lorries that would be off-loading material on public roads to dumper trucks that would bring the concrete up to the site towers. Some of the roads were very narrow and one proposed point for off-loading was at a crossroads and another at a T-junction. He was informed there were three angle towers where extra deliveries of concrete would be required for the deeper foundation.

In response to further questioning, the EirGrid consultant Tom Cannon advised that where the same access route was being used for two or more towers, the pylons would be constructed one at a time in order to reduce the level of traffic on the public road. He outlined other mitigation measure that would be taken including the use of flagmen at a small number of locations to ensure that traffic was not blocked. He also said there would be one proposed road closure during construction of two towers in the Monaghan area.

Mr McKernan asked EirGrid to put in place a mechanical survey of the state of the local roads that would be used three months before the development started. Mr Cannon advised him that the company intended to do a video of the routes involved both before and after construction, but Mr McKernan said this would not be a suitable way of collecting and assessing the relevant information.


Malcolm White of Irish Balloon Flights said his company had been providing passenger flights from its base in Co. Meath for sixteen years. He told the hearing about how their business could be affected if the proposed high voltage power line was permitted. Their main concern was for the safety of passengers and crew.

A consultant for EirGrid Damien Grehan said ballooning was taking place in a landscape that included numerous overhead cables including a 400kV line. Aeronautical engineer Rodney Fewings said the ultimate responsibility for flight regulation rested with the Irish Aviation Authority and pilots were allowed to fly over power lines.

The presiding inspector asked Mr Fewings about the potential of the overhead lines to impact on the Medevac helicopter operations in Ireland, as this had been raised in a number of submissions in response to the planning application. He said he saw no reason why it should be a problem because of the modern navigation equipment on board new helicopters.

This section dealt with the transboundary and cumulative impact

As members of the County Monaghan Anti Pylon Committee and NEPPC had decided a fortnight ago they would withdraw from the proceedings over EirGrid’s conduct at the hearing, it was left to the presiding inspector to ask EirGrid any relevant questions in this section. EirGrid said a comprehensive evaluation of the potential effects on County Armagh at the point where the proposed line crossed the border at Lemgare in County Monaghan had been set out in the environmental impact statement. These ranged from none to moderate.

EirGrid subsidiary SONI had produced its own impact assessment for the effects in the Republic of the development in Northern Ireland as the line extends to Turleenan near Moy in Co. Tyrone. Both companies together had produced a separate consolidated environmental statement on the entirety of the project.


EirGrid consultant ecolgist Daireann McDonnell who had presented details of the most recent wintering bird surveys for 2014/15 to the inquiry two days previously in response to a request from the National Parks and Wildlife Service then read a statement into the record. He confirmed that the studies along the proposed line had not identified any new sensitive locations or mitigation requirements for whooper swans. Mr McDonnell recommended that additional flight diverters should be installed on a section of the lines between thirteen towers near the River Blackwater in County Meath.


The hearing was told EirGrid and its consultants had been able to gain access to only 25% of the land along the route required for the towers, because they did not have permission from every landowner. At the conclusion of the module EirGrid lawyer Jarlath Fitzsimons SC outlined the reasons why the company had decided not to use its statutory powers to gain access in order to carry out environmental appraisals.

He said EirGrid respected the rights of each landowner in relation to their own lands, and always sought to achieve access through liaison with landowners and local communities to the greatest extent possible. EirGrid and its team had conducted site appraisals at a sizeable number of locations which, given the high degree of uniformity of land type and land use in both study areas, assisted in the confirmation of the conclusions of the baseline environmental appraisals conducted without the benefit of site surveys, in many instances.

There was no necessity for EirGrid to exercise statutory powers inherited from the ESB in relation to conducting surveys of lands for the proposed interconnector because they were able to use a suite of alternative assessment methods. The senior counsel told the inspectors that EirGrid and its consultants were confident the appraisal methodologies employed where physical access to sites was not granted had not had a material impact on the quantity or quality or adequacy of the information included in both the Environmental Impact Statement and Natura Impact Statement submitted to the Planning Board as part of the application.

EirGrid remained of the view that the exercise of its statutory powers to gain access to lands compulsorily would have not resulted in additional information being garnered which would have altered the environmental appraisal in any material way, he concluded.


There is a chance today (Thursday) for interested groups or individuals to comment on part one of the proceedings, which began five weeks ago. On Monday the hearing moves into part two, when elected representatives, concerned residents groups from Co. Meath and then individual landowners will make oral submissions on specific issues. Dates for the hearing have been set until mid-May.


At the High Court in Dublin last week Mr Justice Humphreys reserved a decision on a legal case by the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign. They are seeking permission for a judicial review of the validity of the planning application by EirGrid. The judge sad he hoped to give a decision before May 12th.



This section dealt with geology, hydrogeology, soils and water


Colin Andrew, an experienced geologist from Ardbraccan Co. Meath who is also landowner along the proposed route for the power lines and a supporter of the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign made a scathing critique of the environmental impact assessment submitted by EirGrid during an hour-long submission. He concluded that because the EirGrid planning application failed to address and include various important details it was in his professional opinion fatally flawed and inadequate. It was materially deficient, wrong, and thus incomplete and clearly unfit for purpose.

He claimed the geology report showed a poor standard of reporting with confused and inaccurate use of geological terminologies. There was a total absence of site investigation studies to appropriate standards, with no evidence of sites inspected and a failure to conduct hydrological flood risk assessments.

Dr Andrew claimed there was a failure by EirGrid to assess the potential for contaminated ground and unstable or reactive bedrock issues. He told the presiding inspector there was a lack of knowledge of the depth to bedrock and of the materials below the surface they proposed to excavate. The assessment in his view showed a lack of knowledge of the depths of excavations that would be acceptable for load-bearing and thus a lack of knowledge of the quantities of material to be transported from or to sites, with the attendant impact on the numbers of HGV movements.

There was, he said, a failure to address issues associated with mining operations such as blast vibration. Another failure was to assess the impact of overhead power lines on geophysical mineral exploration methods, along with an absence of any geological or hydrological assessment of access tracks.

Although these failings had been identified for EirGrid during their previous application six years ago, Dr Andrew said the company had failed to correct the gross inadequacies of the impact assessment.

He claimed the suitability of individual leg block foundations for the proposed 299 pylons (each pylon has four) had not been assessed in terms of the individual sites along the line. Instead, EirGrid had operated a “one design fits all” policy.


Monaghan County Council senior planner Toirleach Gourley also called on Eirgrid to provide a site specific plan for each of the proposed towers, rather than outlining general measures. His colleague consultative chemist John Paul McEntee said under the EU water framework directive a site specific plan was required showing the location of all drainage outfall and the location of any temporary waste water treatment facilities.

Mr Gourley continued to press EirGrid on its plans for the removal of waste material from individual tower sites and queried details shown in a table included with a diagram of the amount of concrete to be used for the construction of the various types of tower foundations.

Robert Arthur of ESB International explained that the construction of the base of each pylon with four legs and the latticed steel tower was ‘a relatively modest development’. He said the company did not do site specific designs but had forty years of experience in designing such infrastructure throughout Ireland.

EirGrid admitted that during the preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement there were a number of constraints in terms of getting access to sites. Only 25% of the pylon sites had been surveyed. Notwithstanding the constraints, a robust evaluation of the likely significant effects of all aspects of the proposed development, both in respect of the line and the towers, had been undertaken for the purpose of preparing the environmental impact statement.

The working area for construction of a 400 kV tower would extend to 30 x 30m all around the footprint of the base of the tower, with the exception of Towers 166 and 168 close to Lough Morne, which had larger working areas proposed to account for additional excavations required to stabilise ground adjacent to the foundation locations. The minimum width of these working areas is proposed to be 41m at Tower 168 and 34m at Tower 166.

Each of the four corners of the lower part of the tower legs would be separately anchored below ground in a block of concrete. Approximately 10,500m3 of material would be excavated as part of the proposed development in the Monaghan/Cavan area, a figure that was subsequently challenged by the planner from Monaghan County Council.

EirGrid set out how impacts on the existing ground conditions would be restricted to the tower locations, temporary access routes, guarding locations and stringing locations. The magnitude of the impacts at the tower locations was considered to be low. Temporary access tracks consisting of aluminium road panels or rubber matting would be required at approximately nineteen tower locations. It was not proposed to use stone roads or timber sleepers as part of the proposed development.

A report by consultant hydrogeologist John Dillon acknowledged that the construction phase of the proposed development would impact on geological conditions through the use of the temporary access routes and excavations required for the tower bases. The company’s environmental statement said during construction the potential impacts to the underlying soil and geology from the proposed works could derive from accidental spillages of fuels, which could impact the soil, bedrock and groundwater quality, if allowed to infiltrate to ground.

EirGrid said the tower locations had been selected to avoid known areas of lacustrine deposits, intact peat and cutover peat where possible. Intact peat was not identified at any tower location along the line route including Cashel Bog. The predicted impact on the soils and geology was considered to be long term and negligible, according to the company. Mr Dillon said there would be monitoring of sites after the pylons had been constructed.

Figures produced by EirGrid continued to be queried by Toirleach Gourley of Monaghan County Council. When he suggested that the amount of soil to be removed from sites could be as high as 35,000 m3 based on his calculations, he was informed by Robert Arthur of ESB International that was absolutely not the case and such an amount was “totally out of the realms of possibility.”








Lemgare Mass Rock  Pic: Blackquarterfox (own work)                                                                                                         (Creative Commons Licence CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)


This section dealt with cultural heritage

Shirley Clerkin, heritage officer, represented Monaghan County Council along with senior planner Toirleach Gourley. At the start of the proceedings the presiding inspector was asked to allow a consultant archaeologist for EirGrid Declan Moore to add new information regarding four monuments, one of them in Co. Monaghan and the others in Meath, to the environmental impact statement.


Mr Moore explained that a new cultural heritage monument had been added to the archaeological survey database since completion of the evaluation of the North/South interconnector. The site was uploaded to the National Monuments Service historic environment viewer on 25th January 2016 by Michael Moore (archaeologist with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht).

Lemgare Mass Rock is located to the east of a prominent rock outcrop known as the Lemgare rocks in the townland of Lemgare, Co. Monaghan (beside the border with Co. Armagh). The Mass Rock is approximately 30m to the east of one of the proposed pylons and approximately 25m from the overhead power line on an elevated site overgrown with gorse and furze (separate field). The site is located just down from the summit of Lemgare Rocks.

A west-facing rock face is the traditional location of a venue where Mass was celebrated in Penal times and possibly as early as the mid-1700s, according to a survey carried out by Rev. Pádraig Ó Gallachair in 1957 on behalf of the Diocese of Clogher. The information regarding the exact location of the Mass rock was scant; a ‘Report on the state of Popery of 1731’ identifies the site as being in the Parish of Clontibret and the entry reads ‘one Altar made of earth & stones uncovered’. The precise location was unknown at the time of the compilation of the EIS.

Declan Moore’s evaluation is that there will be no direct physical impact. The sensitivity of the site to impacts on setting was found to be high. The magnitude of the impact on the site was found to be substantial. The overall significance on the impact of the proposed interconnector on the setting of the site was considered to be significant.


According to the EirGrid consultant, three recorded monuments in County Meath were added to the archaeological survey database since he completed his evaluation of the North-South interconnector at Teltown Church, the importance of which was to be raised later in the proceedings. A cross, a cross-inscribed stone and rock art (located in the graveyard) were uploaded in January. Despite these additions the overall significance of the impact on the setting of Teltown Church remained ‘moderate negative’, as noted in the environmental impact statement.


In a submission about the impact of the EirGrid plans, Monaghan County Council heritage officer Shirley Clerkin said there were 15 archaeological sites containing 34 megalithic tombs that would be permanently impacted. Two demesnes at Tully House and Shantonagh would be affected and the company’s response had been insufficient. One of the proposed access routes for construction of two towers passed beside a protected circular fort at Latnakelly. There was a high risk that the perimeter wall would be damaged by increased heavy traffic on the laneway. The EirGrid archaeologist said in this location the contractor would be made aware of the monument to ensure no damage occurred and would be required to use lighter machinery to reduce vibrations from construction traffic.

The heritage officer pointed out that on the proposed route, there was a particular cluster of megalithic tombs in the area from Cornamucklagh South going northwards to Lennan. There might be added potential for archaeological evidence of neolithic settlement or other monuments in this area. She stressed that it would be important a photographic analysis of the visual impact was provided before the development went ahead. EirGrid said the portal tomb at Lennan (situated prominently on a drumlin) was about 250m away from the route of the power lines in an area not accessible by the general public. The overall impact of the development on the setting remained the same as stated in the environmental assessment, namely significant.

Monaghan County Council has been leading a regional Black Pig’s Dyke project since 2014. This Bronze Age or Iron Age fortification was a recorded monument on the national register. There were obvious surface remains along some of its length in County Monaghan, at the east, south of Lough Muckno and to the west of the county below Scotshouse. The extensive lines of ditches which spread into neighbouring counties are considered to be amongst the oldest, largest and most celebrated land boundaries in prehistoric Europe.

The EirGrid report by consultant archaeologist Declan Moore said the site was believed to have been a single defensive earthwork running from Sligo to Louth and presently was untraceable for most of its length. Parts of the earthwork had been identified in County Cavan just east of Bellananagh and in County Monaghan. The company said it was possible that the proposed line route might pass over the subsurface remains of this earthwork.

Mr Moore was asked by the presiding inspector to outline measures that would be taken to protect historic monuments that were near proposed towers and access routes. He explained what would be done in specific cases such as at Latnakelly fort and Corrinenty.


A leading Irish archaeologist from Co. Meath who excavated the passage tomb at Knowth informed the hearing that it would be a travesty to put power lines near the equally historic Bronze Age site at Teltown (Tealtainn). The assessment of Professor George Eogan from Nobber was read into the record by architect John Clancy from Batterstown.

Professor Eogan said the Tealtainn/Donaghpatrick heritage complex comprised one of the treasures of early Ireland and was rich in archaeology and history. The unspoilt rural landscape reflected that important heritage which he said must be preserved for present and future generations.

Professor Eogan continued: “I have consulted the plans for this proposed project and the prospect of eight massive pylons traversing this beautiful landscape is unthinkable. Not only would the pylons be a massive visual intrusion, but the ground works involved in their construction and erection will have a very detrimental effect on the hitherto undisturbed archaeological deposits.”

“The proposed erection of pylons with their massive visual and destructive intrusion on this unspoilt landscape would be a travesty for which no possible justification can be made. I sincerely hope that permission will not be granted for it to proceed”, Professor Eogan stated.

According to his assessment, Tealtainn is particularly important as it was where significant ecclesiastical and secular events took place in the past. Going right back to the Bronze Age examples of rock art of the period have been discovered in the ancient graveyard there, which also contained a font and sundial of the Early Christian period. In late prehistoric and early historic times the famous Tealtainn games were held annually, presided over by the High King. Professor Eogan said it was vital that the area be left undisturbed so as to allow for further investigation.

Donaghpatrick was another important element of the complex. The modern church incorporated the remains of  a 14th- 15th century tower house. St Patrick established a church there, hence the name. Across the road from the church were very impressive remains of a triple-banked ring fort, Rath Aithir.

Professor Eogan’s letter to the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society was quoted by the Society’s Past President John Clancy from Batterstown when he made a submission to the Bord Pleanála oral hearing, now in its fifth week. Meanwhile in Dublin, a High Court challenge by the North East Pylon Pressure Group continued last Thursday and was again adjourned.

Mr Clancy, an architect, told the presiding inspector that the proposed interconnector route a few kilometres from the Hill of Tara and near other important archaeological sites would have a serious cost to our landscape and heritage and no benefit for electricity consumers. He explained that he lived 180m from a route of pylons near the ESB sub-station at Woodland, where the proposed 400kV interconnector will link into the transmission system. The pastoral landscape had been changed forever when the towers carrying six cables for a 220kV line were erected, he said.

When future generations wrote the history of how they had treated Meath’s heritage, Mr Clancy wondered if the insertion of pylons and transmission lines would be seen as yet another mistake similar to the M3 motorway as the infrastructure passed through the Teltown landscape and near the archaeological complexes of Brittas, Cruicetown, Rahood and Raffin. Although it was a major piece of important infrastructure, there was no proper provision for it in the Meath County Development Plan 2013-19. The route through Meath should therefore be excluded when Bord Pleanála made its determination, he told the presiding inspector.

Mr Clancy referred to photomontages provided by EirGrid showing what pylons would look like in key areas such as the Hill of Tara, Brittas and Bective Abbey. He said they were insufficient to arrive at a clear view of the true visual impact and further studies were required, as had happened with the N2 Slane Bypass inquiry. Consultant architect for EirGrid Joerg Schulze said all photomontages had been produced to the current best practice guidelines.

Meath County Council Heritage Officer Loreto Guinan said the Hill of Tara contained 150 recorded monuments and was one of the most culturally significant places in Ireland. It was a candidate for designation as a UNESCO world heritage site. The proposed interconnector development posed key questions as to whether it was likely to comproise the nomination made in 2010. She told the presiding inspector an independent world heritage expert should be asked to make an impact assessment, based on international standards and benchmarks.

Consultant archaeologist for EirGrid Declan Moore went through the environmental impact assessment for various sites close to the line of the proposed route. The magnitude of the impact of the proposed development on the setting of the Tara Complex would be minor. Should the development proceed, it would have a permanent, slight, negative impact on the setting of Tara.

In the Teltown area, no known archaeological monuments would be directly, physically impacted upon by the proposed development. Because of its high archaeological potential and as previously unrecorded archaeological remains could be found during the construction of the towers, mitigation measures were recommended.

The magnitude of the impact of the proposed development on the setting of Rath Dhu, the fort thought to be the centre for the ancient Teltown funeral games, was considered to be minor with the overall significance of the impact on the setting of the monument deemed to be slight.

Although the proposed power lines were almost 700m from Teltown church, a number of the towers associated with the development would be visible as it passed to the east. The magnitude of the impact of the proposed development was found to be substantial. The overall significance of the impact on the setting of Teltown church was found to be moderate negative.

EirGrid is suggesting that a licensed archaeologist supervises any excavations in advance of the construction of towers, thereby ensuring the early identification of archaeological deposits and minimal loss to the archaeological record. The National Monuments Service of the DAHG and the National Museum of Ireland would be consulted immediately should archaeology be discovered. An archaeologist would also monitor site access and construction works.

EirGrid’s assessment said the proposed development would not directly inhibit any tourist and amenity activities along the route of the power lines. However the reduction in the visual amenity of a local area might be perceived as reducing the attractiveness of an area used for tourist and amenity related activities. There would be a direct though localised visual impact on a short section of the Boyne Valley driving route, as the line crossed this route at two locations close to Bective Abbey and Gibstown. There would be direct but limited visibility when viewed from specific locations within Bective Abbey.

Other outdoor amenity areas and activities, including the location of Gibstown Drive-In Bingo, were in close proximity to the proposed development. While the overhead line would be visible from these areas and there might be a reduction in the visual amenity, it was unlikely to prohibit recreational activities continuing at these locations.



This section dealt with construction, including temporary access routes

At the start of the hearing on Wednesday, presiding inspector Breda Gannon said she understood the concerns and difficulties expressed the previous day about the new information on temporary access routes that had been presented by EirGrid. She said she had decided to continue the hearing, the purpose of which was to act as an information gathering exercise to explore complex matters. She repeated her comments on the opening day, that the ultimate decision on the application rested with An Bord Pleanála, which would consider all matters raised and would have a number of options open to it. Her role was not to make a ruling on an item by item basis, she said. She invited observers and EirGrid to continue discussion on the construction module.

A lawyer for the NEPPC Michael O’Donnell BL said he had to accept the ruling but asked the inspector if she would agree to adjourn proceedings to allow an application to be made in court. This was rejected. The inspector said the NEPPC could continue to participate at any stage.

Robert Arthur of ESB International gave more details of the type of towers along the line, including a number of angle towers. Another ESBI consultant Jarlath Doyle explained details of the construction process, including the types of vehicles that would be used to bring concrete into fields where the steel pylons would be erected. It was also explained that ‘durabase’ matting was to be laid where necessary to provide access for vehicles in fields. These could be left in place for the duration of the construction process.

As an affected landowner with a pedigree Charolais herd on the family’s farm, Mary Marron of the CMAPC wanted to know if that meant the matting would be there for a span of three years. She called on EirGrid to be more specific about the fences that would be used to keep livestock away from the construction sites. Who was going to be responsible for the livestock and to whom could they address any queries relating to construction issues. It seemed that EirGrid was expecting each landowner to take responsibility for their animals and that was unacceptable.

Nigel Hillis of CMAPC pointed out that the type of fencing proposed along access routes was unsuitable for an agricultural setting. The pictures provided by EirGrid showed individual units of steel fencing joined together and anchored in blocks. He said such fencing was designed to keep people out, not animals and it would not stop a bull knocking it down. There was no proposal by the company to put up staked fencing with barbed wire, which is what farmers would use on their land.

Regarding the methodology used by the EirGrid consultants to investigate proposed access routes, Mr Hillis asked one of them if he had put on wellingtons and walked the dotted line shown on one of the maps leading to a proposed pylon site. He declined to answer the question. Some of his colleagues gave details later of how aerial photography combined with more recent Google mapping had allowed them to examine the possible routes, without having to contact landowners and access individual holdings.

Mr Hillis observed that the methodology of getting access to pylon sites was totally wrong. He explained that their committee had met on Tuesday evening and had decided they would not be returning as a group to the first part of the oral hearing.

Before departing Mary Marron said landowners should have been made aware of proposed changes. She asked EirGrid to provide proper photos of the type of machinery that would be used to access the pylon sites and asked for maps to show where matting would be laid. She requested the company to provide specific information on these issues.

Monaghan County Council senior planner Toirleach Gourley raised a number of questions with EirGrid about the details shown in some of the maps they had provided about the route of the line. He said the company had made an insufficient response to the concerns the Council had raised in their response to the planning application last August. Mr Gourley claimed a number of photomontages had limited legibility, such as one showing the point where the interconnector would cross the main N2 road at Annyalla.

A consultant landscape architect Joerg Schulze for EirGrid explained how he had drawn up the proposed route for the line, taking into account the relevant constraints such as avoiding residential areas where possible, sites of archaeological importance and loughs. In the drumlin landscape of County Monaghan it was not possible to avoid all drumlins but he believed he had found the best routing possible.

Mr Gourley said he was not convinced that putting pylons along the top of drumlins such as near Lough Egish was the ultimate choice. The planner also pointed out that Monaghan County Council had received no drawings showing the height and colour of the temporary buildings (portakabins) which EirGrid proposed to erect at a construction material storage yard beside the N2 at Monaltyduff/Monatybane outside Carrickmacross.





This section dealt with the consideration of alternatives

Michael Fisher    Northern Standard


A senior planner from Monaghan County Council Toirleach Gourley talked about alternative routes for the proposed interconnector. He told the two planning inspectors from An Bord Pleanála there was a lack of robust consideration of alternative routes along the West Louth and South Armagh corridor near Crossmaglen. He said the preferred route chosen in the application had gravitated towards the County Monaghan area. Furthermore there was a pre-defined border crossing (into County Armagh at Lemgare near Clontibret) and no alternative had been given.


EirGrid senior planner Des Cox in response to Mr Gourley said the routing alternatives had been subject to a detailed re-evaluation following the initial proposal in 2005. The content of the documents published then had been re-visited. The technical needs and environmental constraints had been taken into consideration in the Cavan/Monaghan study area. There were a number of urban areas near the proposed route such as Carrickmacross, Castleblayney and Ballybay which the engineers attempted to avoid in drawing up the line. He explained why the company proposed to divert the line through County Monaghan.

Regarding the proposed crossing point into Northern Ireland at Lemgare near Clontibret, Mr Cox said the planners had identified the Battle of Clontibret site as a heritage area. Because of the heritage, roadside housing and the high ground there were significant environmental constraints in that area.

Mr Gourley questioned why EirGrid did not decide to identify an alternative line that would run close to the existing interconnector that crossed the border near Crossmaglen in South Armagh. He appreciated that there had to be separation between the lines but said the company had not given robust consideration to an alternative.

Mr Cox said he was satisfied EirGrid had considered the options at strategic level and that the options were dealt with. But Mr Gourley repeated that no consideration had been given to an alternative border crossing and said Monaghan County Council was not satisfied on this issue. The response from Mr Cox was that EirGrid had considered the alternatives and “we’re satisfied it (the line) can’t avoid Monaghan”.


Nigel Hillis of the County Monaghan Anti Pylon Committee said they did not speak or give any evidence on this subject at the previous oral hearing in 2010. They were not experts on transmission systems or interconnectors, indeed how could they be expected to be, nor did the committee have the funds to employ any such experts. They had to approach this module from a discrete prospective and glean whatever knowledge from published documents such as relevant technical studies and public records of meetings.

He reminded the inspectors about the history of the project, pointing out that formal discussions about increased cross-border transmission reinforcement between Northen Ireland Electricity and ESB-NG started around 2001 and culminated in December 2005 with a joint decision paper entitled: ‘Additional North South Interconnector Selection of Preferred Option’.

Out of five options, the preferred route was stated as Kingscourt in Co. Cavan to Drumkee near Coalisland in Co. Tyrone. This was the least cost option which complied with the criteria for additional interconnection:

  • increase transfer capability significantly in both directions;
  • the additional interconnector must avoid situations where a single event could lead to system separation.

The report did not decide on the voltage or whether the line would be single or double circuit. The final recommendation was to go for a 400kV single circuit at 900MW capacity having the potential to expand to 1500MW at any time in future if the demand was there. It was to be linked into the planned Dublin to North East 400kV line utilising the planned substation at Kingscourt. So what started out in reality as two different projects for different needs then joined up at the proposed Kingscourt substation.

Mr Hillis said all the alternatives considered to that point in time were for traditional overhead lines. He said no information could be found that undergrounding was in any way considered. “I do not believe it even entered their heads – although I am absolutely open to correction by EirGrid on that. And as we know an overhead 400kV line along three alternative routes in Monaghan, not sure how many in Meath, was presented to the public at the end of 2007”.

There was then a massive public outcry and immediate calls to underground the line to the extent that forced the Energy Minister at the time Eamonn Ryan to commission an independent report into undergrounding early in 2008. The report by German energy systems consultants ECOFYS report ‘Study on the comparative merits of overhead electricity transmission lines versus underground cables’ never really gained much traction and like a lot of government reports it ended up on the high shelf gathering dust. There seemed to be general dissatisfaction with it in all quarters, according to Mr Hillis.


A local quarry owner, Phil Connolly from Carrickamore, Corduff, Carrickmacross, explained that he had land in the route corridor and his dwelling is 200m above sea level and 500m from the proposed line. His quarry is 100m from the corridor. “We will be able to view, at a conservative estimate, twenty (proposed) pylons from our holding”, he said.


He said this was a totally new application for a project from Tyrone to Meath and differed greatly from the 2009 application.

“Critically this new application does not contain a sub-station in Cavan at all. Why? Is it piece meal development or will it likely, never be required at all? If it’s the first it’s wrong in planning, if it’s the latter it would have opened up this project to a far greater choice of options for area and route selection.”

*The needs outlined for the 2009 application are totally changed in the second.

*There is no strengthening of the network locally as previously stated.

*An expert independent commission has reported in 2011 that undergrounding, using D.C., is feasible for the project.

Therefore, starting with Stage 1., of Eirgrids development and consultation road map, this new project warrants a whole new scoping and appraisal of firstly the study area, then route corridors and then preferred route corridor. Not a re-evaluation of old obsolete and discredited information.

Did Eirgrid consult with stakeholders on routes B and C in Monaghan and Cavan for this new application? No! Simply put, no consultation was carried out for this project in the three corridors.

To compound matters the so called consultation carried out in 2007 is generally considered to be useless and totally inadequate. It only lasted for a few short months over the Christmas period. My first knowledge of the project and experience of meeting with Eirgrid representatives was at a public meeting in late 2007 in Monaghan town. I had stated that I would allow Eirgrid to access my land to carry out undergrounding of the lines but that I certainly would not want them on my lands to erect overhead lines. An Eirgrid representative then told me and my then teenage family that QUOTE “We will come in the front door of your home and out the back door if we have the need and you won’t be able to stop us.” That was the level of consultation we received.

Stage 2 of the road map is to “consider all feedback from Stage 1” and is based on nine year-old consultation from a different project! Again to put it in perspective, if I was to apply to MCC for planning on my quarry using 2007 consultation reports I would be laughed at.

How many people have emigrated, passed away, moved house, might be affected by Community Gain or changed their views in nine years on routes B and C? How many people on lines B and C routes know that it is all one project now? Not two sections? No sub-station in Kingscourt? That undergrounding is feasible?

This application is like building a house with no foundations. No matter what amount of cement you put in the walls it will still sink.  All those tables covered with folders are useless if the basics are wrong. It is impossible to choose a preferred route corridor without consultation with all three corridors.


When you examine this old route constraints report 2006/07 you will find; no consistent, transparent or reliable method was used in Route Corridor Selection and it contains many inaccuracies, for example; In county Meath a 10% difference in route length resulted in a negative rating for that route, while in Monaghan a 10% difference in route length was ignored. WHY?

Cultural Heritage: The red line in Monaghan, is identified as having the greatest impact on cultural heritage however they then enter a bizarre paragraph in an attempt to neutralise this. “There is a possibility that those sites that are directly impacted may in fact not be, and vice versa those sites which are indirectly impacted may actually be directly impacted”. It’s like a line straight out of a farcical comedy. What use is that?

Land Use: In their calculation of the number of dwellings, AOS states that their findings are “subject to erroneous data”, “by no means definite” and only an “approximate idea”. Route selection should not have been chosen using this type of unreliable data.

Visual impact: Examination of their data shows that the main difference, incorrectly given, between both routes is the medium to high assessment given to the 8km stretch of the B route where it crosses the R178 and the low assessment given to the similar stretch of the A route where it crosses the R178. Why did the B route get this high rating? What visual receptors were used? In this section of the B route there are no areas of population, scenic routes or lakes affected and as they were unsure of the number of dwellings within 100 meters then it is reasonable to assume that they had no acceptably accurate assessment of how many dwellings there were within the 1km wide corridor or further away. This section of the A route, on the other hand, is clearly visible for miles from the R178. I believe a proper independent assessment would show route A to have a greater visible impact along the R178. It is also in close proximity to 2 churches, a factory and a number of dwellings. The simple fact is that Route A if visible from a far greater length of the R178 than Route B.

Economic Impacts: With regards route selection in the EIS (section 5.3), Existing quarries, in County Meath route A gets a blue rating for Trim quarry located 0.8km and Keegans quarry 0.3 km away from this indicative route. In relation to County Monaghan it gives no negative rating on any of the three routes for existing quarries.

I own a substantial quarry at Carrickamore, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan. It is within 0.1 km of route A, the selected route. It was not mentioned nor taken into account but should obviously have resulted in a blue rating for route A if there was any consistency in the methodology used. Furthermore it bizarrely states that there are 12 quarries within 6km of all three routes. I would like them to name these quarries in all 3 cases as this information is substantially wrong.

These are just a sample of the inaccuracies. Did the re-evaluation report correct these and factor in correct data to enable their choice of preferred route?? The re-evaluation report is just a useless paper exercise, this application still relies on 10 year old incorrect, ancient data.

In 2012 Eirgrid announced 2 new 400kv projects i.e. Grid Link, 300km and Grid West which is 100km long, similar to this project. When you look at “needs and justification “outlined by Eirgrid for these projects, you will see they are very similar in a lot of ways to this project.

  1. The existing transmission infrastructure in the two regions needs substantial investment.
  2. To facilitate wind energy development
  3. To meet E.U. targets
  4. Will help all regions to attract the type of industry that requires a secure high voltage supply

Up to 2014 they had progressed both projects the same as this one and had 3 route corridors for overhead lines chosen. In Grid West there was an emerging preferred route. The only major difference being that the consultation was carried out with the public at a far earlier stage and to a far greater extent than this project.

As with this project, undergrounding was put forward by the affected stakeholders and the reasons given by EirGrid for not considering it as follows:

  1. It does not deliver future flexibility/ extendibility.
  2. It does not deliver same security/ reliability of supply when compared with overhead A/C.
  3. It causes additional operational difficulties
  4. It is untried and untested as part of an integrated A/C network
  5. It would be cost prohibitive to tap in or avail of the power in D/C line

And on these grounds it was not feasible.


IN January 2014 due to local and regional pressure in the West and South from public who were now aware of the massive long term impacts of overhead pylons, Minister Rabbitt set up an independent expert panel (I.E.P.) to look into both projects.

The panel’s terms of reference were for a  “comprehensive, route specific studies/ report of fully undergrounding and overhead options for both projects including assessments of potential environmental impacts, technical efficiency and cost factors.”

Then later that year the Minister, after pressure from local politicians in this area, reluctantly asked the same group to give an opinion on this project just to see if the compatibility of the methodologies to be employed on the North South link compare with those on Grid Link and Grid West, critically, up to May 2nd 2014

This consisted of the panel, on May 7th, asking EirgGid to submit an assessment of the extent to which in EirGrids view, the methodologies used were compatible. So we get EirGrids view on how EirGrid was carrying out the three projects. We didn’t need an expert panel to answer that question at that stage as EirGrid had progressed Grid West to an emerging preferred route stage for pylons and undergrounding was not considered as feasible.

When EirGrid quote the findings of the I.E.P. several times in the application that the compatibility of the methodologies used were the same in Grid link and Grid West as the North South, it means nothing. Only that at that stage of the projects, 2nd May 2014, they had treated the people of the West and South somewhat like they had treated us.

The I.E.P. then, in July 2014, got involved in both Grid West and Grid Link projects, using this wide terms of reference for the studies/reports and overseen Eirgrid carry them out. Then everything changed. In Grid Link by October 2014 Eirgrid had dropped plans for a 400kv line and put forward a new plan, with no new poles. As the I.E.P described it “But a new option” not previously known or anticipated by the panel.

In Grid West the I.E.P. report allows for undergrounding and overhead options to be compared against each other, hence a new underground feasible option that would cost just twice the amount of overhead lines is part of this projects proposal. The compatibility of the methodologies used would not have been the same if they were compared in September 2015.

Reading the I.E.P report it clearly shows me and hopefully An Bord Pleanala that:

  1. EirGrid changed everything when they were challenged by a body with the right Terms of Reference
  2. Underground D/C is feasible, even in the middle of a small total A/C network, at twice the cost, when you identify a proper route.

This is totally at odds with what EirGrid states in this application.

  1. When the general population who are directly affected and become aware of the massive long term impacts of overhead lines on their region, they are rightly, totally opposed to them.

So it’s not just us in the North East.

  1. Technical, costs and other excuses or reasons put forward by Eirgrid don’t stand up to expert scrutiny
  2. That we here in the North East are being treated unjustly and that a proper, realistic and definite underground D/C alternative solution must be part of this proposal from an early stage. I believe, with this standard of alternative, not made available in this application that it doesn’t meet planning regulations. There is a genuine, reasonable, workable, cost effective, alternative option proven to be available.

We deserve and demand to be treated with equality. This expert group should have been given the same terms of reference as Grid Link and Grid West.

The review from the international expert commission in 2011 confirmed what we had said at the last oral hearing. That is, that a high voltage D/C solution is a feasible option for this project and that it would not cost anywhere near the 10-20 times extra that Eirgrid has wrongly been touting for years. The report also quotes Gridlink report from 2009 that states technical difficulties can be overcome and that this will be the 2nd all Ireland interconnector and this makes balancing power etc. very possible. Even the C.A.O at Eirgrid has, under pressure, recently admitted that D/C is a feasible option.

I have been a self-employed business man all my adult life. I am very much in favour of progress and development to benefit our communities and our country. I also believe in peoples’ rights to be treated equally and fairly. With regards to this project, the Stakeholders of the North East have not been given the same regard as those in the West and South. We have been subjected to miss information, wrong information, wrong data, cost exaggerations and poor consultation for 8 years.

The I.E.P. did EirGrid a favour when they forced change in Grid West and Grid Link. Both these projects will likely progress quickly without prolonged aggravation for the people of the regions and long term damage to the countryside. I believe at this point that this application should be suspended and an expert group taken in. They should be given the similar terms of reference as the I.E.P. This would save this community many more years of aggravation and indeed save EirGrid time and money



Padraig O’Reilly  NEPPC  Pic: Michael Fisher

Padraig O’Reilly of the NEPPC claimed EirGrid had failed to consider objectively all realistic alternatives. There was also a failure by the government and Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to ensure an objective examination of realistic alternatives. From 2007 onwards EirGrid had made policy statements about an overhead line. Their initial statements on undergrounding had been misleading and they then made reluctant concessions to examine ‘the barriers to undergrounding’. They claimed incorrectly to have examined realistic options.

Mr O’Reilly said no real examination of changes in the marketplace had occurred and there was no allowance for the reduced need in the market. He pointed out that underground cable technology was advancing rapidly, with a progressive reduction in costs. It was of proven reliability, producing no electric field. It was being used increasingly in other countries. There were no issues surrounding health, devaluation of property, agriculture, noise, tourism or the landscape.

According to the NEPPC, up to this day an appropriate high voltage DC underground cable alternative along public roads had never been identified, consulted on or costed.


The company confirmed the cost of the proposed line from Woodland in Co. Meath through Cavan and Monaghan to Turleenan in Co. Tyrone would be €286 million, consisting of construction expenditure and compensation to landowners. An EirGrid representative told the inquiry he would have a look at getting a breakdown of the figures but that he couldn’t see what that had to do with alternatives.

The North East Pylon Pressure Campaign and Co. Monaghan Anti Pylon Committee pressed EirGrid on why an environmental impact statement regarding the proposed infrastructure had not considered and costed an underground alternative. A consultant brought in by EirGrid said in response to their questions a high voltage DC underground cable was certainly a possibility.

Padraig O’Reilly of NEPPC asked again if the possibility of placing such cables alongside public roads had been considered. He said there was a serious deficiency in the company’s application as such an analysis was not included. But consultant engineer Dr Norman MacLeod responded that considerable excavation would be required for underground cabling. It would require either two trenches on one side of the road or one trench on either side and the verges would have to be dug up and the large swathe along the 135km route would have to be protected.

Aidan Geoghegan of EirGrid said Ireland’s local and regional roads were simply not wide enough to accommodate such construction.