Bord Pleanála says that up to half of the proposed nine kilometre onshore route for the Corrib gas pipeline is "unacceptable" on safety grounds, due to proximity to housing in Rossport and Glengad.
The board has suggested that Shell E&P Ireland and its Corrib gas partners explore another route, up the Sruwaddacon estuary, and has given the company three months to come back with detailed information on the route, design and safety of the high pressure pipe.
In a four page letter issued today, the board says that the current application "does not present a complete, transparent and adequate demonstration" that the high pressure pipeline "does not pose an unacceptable risk to the public".
It also says that the impact of construction on a designated rural area in Rossport would "seriously injure residential amenities" and the development potential of lands there. It notes that part of the pipeline route onshore was omitted from the application.
Shell E&P Ireland has until February 5th, 2010 to respond to a series of points raised by the board, which represents a significant setback for the project's time schedule.
The revised onshore route application was drawn up by RPS Consultants for the Corrib gas developers on the recommendation of Government mediator Peter Cassells who reported to former energy minister Noel Dempsey in 2006 after the jailing of the Rossport five the previous year.
The original pipeline route had not been subject to planning approval, and consents were issued by former marine minister Frank Fahey. Opposition to it resulted in five Mayo men being jailed for 94 days for contempt of court.
A modified route was submitted by Shell to Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Act last year but was withdrawn some months after a request for additional information.
A new application lodged in February of this year resulted in a 19-day oral hearing in Belmullet, chaired by inspector Martin Nolan.