Residents’ groups in Monaghan who are opposing elements of the Government’s €280 million North-South interconnector project have accused Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan of being “disrespectful” refusing to meet them.
The Co Monaghan Anti-Pylon Group said an announcement by Eirgrid that it will spend millions on a new application for planning permission for the high-voltage power line was a “perversion” of the planning process.
An error in the original application for the line through Meath, Cavan and Monaghan forced the State’s electricity network operator, Eirgrid, to withdraw the application on June 29th last, midway through a Bord Pleanála hearing into the issue.
The public notice, which was part of the application, stated the pylons supporting the power lines would be between 23 and 37 metres high, but it should have read 23-44 metres.
Eirgrid will have to resubmit its application for permission to build the €200 million power line to An Bord Pleanála and go through a second public hearing.
Spokesman for the anti-pylon group Owen Bannigan said residents now faced mounting costs as Eirgrid planned “another taxpayer-funded attempt to have the project approved”.
He said the group had been forced to spend “a substantial six-figure sum” raised by the people of Monaghan to successfully fight the initial application.
He said this had never been a case of “not in our back yard” and that residents had “repeatedly offered constructive solutions and suggestions, and have been repeatedly ignored”.
Mr Bannigan said that until the matter was resolved, thousands of people had to live with uncertainty around the value of their land, fear of the costs of another oral hearing, and concerns over the health risks of the project.
It had sought meetings with Mr Ryan to discuss the issue on a number of occasions but the requests had been “rebuffed” every time.
A spokesman for the Minister said the planning and construction of electricity transmission infrastructure was a matter for EirGrid as Ireland’s statutory transmission system operator.
“The Minister does not intervene in the day-to-day planning in relation to transmission infrastructure,” the spokesman added.
The Minister had met with community representatives who were opposed to aspects of the development during the pre-planning consultation phase.
He had also commissioned an independent report into the “comparative merits of overhead lines versus underground cables” and arranged for the consultants who completed the report to address the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.
“The Minister has no role in relation to the planning process which is a function of An Bord Pleanála as the independent statutory authority in respect of strategic infrastructure developments.
“It would not therefore be appropriate for the Minister to intervene in any way on issues arising from the planning process.”
The original planning application was made last December, and the public hearing began in May.
An Bord Pleanála may not now be able to make a decision until next year, when the lines had been scheduled to be in place.