Sunday 9 November 2008

Damages case over gas pipeline delay is settled

A LEGAL action by An Bord Gáis’s Northern Ireland subsidiary aimed at compelling Lord Ballyedmond, formerly senator Edward Haughey, to pay some £613,000 (€756,000) in damages over alleged delays in construction over his lands of the North-South natural gas pipeline, has been settled.

BGE/UK had sought the damages after the Commercial Court in 2006 dismissed Lord Ballyedmond’s challenge to the proposed pipeline route over some of his lands at Dungooley, Co Louth.

Lord Ballyedmond proposed an alternative route over his lands but an inspector appointed by the Commission for Energy Regulation said the alternative route would prove more costly, while the route selected was the most economical. The hearing to assess the amount of damages began on Tuesday before Mr Justice Peter Kelly in the Commercial Court, and was due to resume yesterday when the judge was told it had been settled. He said the settlement was “not before time”.

Lawyers for Lord Ballyedmond have disputed the claims of delays, and had argued that he had no liability under an undertaking for damages given by him when bringing his legal proceedings for the sums claimed.

On Tuesday, ruling on preliminary arguments in the case, Mr Justice Kelly rejected Lord Ballyedmond’s argument that the damages undertaking did not apply. The judge then proceeded to hear arguments as to the amount of damages incurred.

In his main action, Lord Ballyedmond challenged orders made in 2005 for the compulsory acquisition of some of his lands for the purpose of constructing a 900- metre section of pipeline. The section is part of the 156km of pipeline being built by An Bord Gáis between Gormanston, Co Meath, and Ballyclare, Co Antrim.

Lord Ballyedmond argued that procedures used to select the pipeline route were unfair.

In 2006, Mr Justice Frank Clarke rejected the challenge on all grounds, including claims that the issue of the costs of various proposed pipeline routes were not adequately notified to Lord Ballyedmond in a manner which would allow him a reasonable opportunity to deal with such issues.

In this week’s damages hearing, BGE/UK claimed that, because it had given an undertaking pending the outcome of the court case not to enter Lord Ballyedmond’s property to carry out works, it was entitled to damages for the costs of having workers, plant and equipment on standby. It claimed entitlement to £612,698 in damages and said this included some £182,000 for costs of a “lock-out period” when it was not permitted on to the lands and £330,000 for having equipment on standby.

The Irish Times

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