6 September 2019 No Comments by The Northern Standard

A two-page advertisement by EirGrid in the August 29 edition of the Northern Standard giving updates on the state of progress of its controversial north-south electricity interconnector project, and rationale for its need, has been decried as “propaganda” by the Co Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee.

The committee, representative of landowners affected by the development and campaigners for the project to be realised using undergrounded infrastructure, issued the following statement to the Northern Standard in which they take issue with several aspects of the content of the EirGrid promotional and information material: It is indicative of EirGrid’s total disregard of how they spend taxpayers’ money that they should take out such a huge, two- page full colour advertisement in the Northern Standard last week to broadcast their propaganda about the north-south interconnector. Albeit every cloud has a silver lining, with such a windfall in advertising revenue to the Northern Standard.

The advertisement begins by informing the reader that it is ESB Networks who are responsible for the detailed design and construction of the project. At the oral hearing back in 2016, EirGridconstantly refused to produce a detailed design for the pylons and instead relied on an artist’s impression, which An Bord Pleanala did not question.

One would not get planning permission for a house based on an artist’s impression, but obviously normal planning criteria do not apply to EirGrid. Now we have the situation where the ESB are free to change the pylons’ design and perhaps even the heights and locations of the pylons to suit their detailed design.

This could lead to an outrageous situation that would totally ignore the planning conditions as laid down by An Bord Pleanala. How is a landowner going to know if, for example, the height of a pylon on his land has been increased to suit the ESB’s detailed design or even if a pylon is moved a few metres.

The drawings given to each landowner showing the location of the pylons are simply not accurate enough to determine the exact location, with no measurements given to the nearest boundaries.

The second paragraph informs the reader that ESB Networks has awarded a “framework contract” for the design, test and supply of pylons. Yet, there is no explanation of exactly what a “framework contract” is.

It goes on to say that the main part of the contract will not commence until the planning proves in Northern Ireland is complete. It would therefore seem to us that a “framework contract” is pretty much a final contract just waiting for planning permission in Northern Ireland.

It just shows the complete arrogance of EirGrid to award a contract for the design and supply and erection of pylons on both sides of the Border long before planning permission has been received in Northern Ireland.

The advertisement goes on to reveal that ESB is also in discussions with Meath, Cavan and Monaghan Co Councils to agree certain aspects of the detailed design. It is certainly news to us that the local authorities would have any input at all into the detailed design of pylons that are located on private lands.

We would certainly hope that our local councillors will get to the bottom of this statement. We need to have full and updated disclosure on exactly what discussions are taking place between EirGrid/ESB and the Co Councils’ planning officials.

EirGrid then go on to inform us about the benefits of the project in Meath, Cavan and Monaghan, including job creation and economic development in the north-east. This is pure propaganda by EirGrid’s spin doctors, as there is no new sub- station proposed anywhere in the north-east.

Without a sub-station to step down the 400kV power to a level that can be used by industry, there is simply no access to the power line at all and it is just like a motorway running through the area without any access points to benefit local commuters.

The next paragraph reveals exactly what the project is now all about – renewable energy and climate change. EirGrid states that, in this regard, the project is fully supported by the Government’s Climate Action Plan 2019.

The pretence of risk to security of supply in Northern Ireland has now been dropped, which was shown to have been simply a ploy and scare tactic to get the project through planning.

EirGrid has announced an overall community fund of €10 million, which includes proximity payments for homeowners and a community gain fund. A €10 million fund is measly and laughable when considered in the context of over 100 kms in three counties.

It’s like trying to butter a pan loaf with a spoonful of butter spread so thinly that it won’t even be noticed. If EirGrid think for one minute that communities will sell out for such a pittance, then they may think again.

EirGrid say that they don’t envisage any changes to the access routes at this stage. However, the access routes were chopped and changed so many times at the oral hearing that landowners ended up with no clarity as to where the access routes were going.

These proposed changes were never ratified by An Bord Pleanala at all. It is indeed a moot point to say that over 500 access routes were identified as part of the planning process because EirGrid never sought nor received planning permission for even one access route, never mind over 500 in total.

The advertisement ends by saying that “our agricultural liaison officers are on the ground and available to answer your questions”. The only question we have is when will EirGrid cop itself on and realise that the only way this interconnector project will ever be built is to put it underground.
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(See ‘Eirgrid Presses Ahead With Interconnector Plans’ and Co Council debate report on Page 14.)

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