EirGrid and council clash on power line near Tara
North-South interconnector planned to run between Meath and Tyrone
A site for the planned EirGrid North-South Interconnector development at Kilmainhamwood, near Nobber Co Meath. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh
EirGrid and Meath County Council have clashed over the effect the construction of a major power line will have on views from the Hill of Tara.
The differences emerged at a Bord Pleanála oral hearing in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, into plans for the North-South electricity interconnector running between Meath and Tyrone.
Two local campaign groups, the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign and Co Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee have pulled out of this section of the hearing, saying it has descended into a farce.
Defending Eirgrid’s plans, a landscape architect said the pylons would “not have a significant impact”, but the local authority put the impact as “high or very high”. Joerg Schulze, for EirGrid, said the closest pylon would be 6.29km (3.8 miles) from the Hill of Tara, which is a candidate Unesco World Heritage site.
Reducing impactUsing photomontages, Mr Schulze said a 220kV line from Gormanston to Maynooth that was only 1.25km away is not immediately apparent. The EirGrid-proposed 400kV development would be about 4.5-5km farther away and seen entirely against the land, reducing its impact further, he said.
However, Conor Skehan, an expert hired by Meath County Council, said the pylons and cables would be visible under many different lighting conditions. In winter, they would be visible in low light and clear skies, while they would affect views in summer during fast-moving, cloudy conditions.
The presiding inspector also questioned EirGrid about the effect of the proposed line on demesnes in Co Meath, especially Brittas near Nobber.
The impact on Brittas would be significant because mature woodland will be removed. Nearly 2.7 acres of mature woodland would have to go to create a 74m-wide corridor for the power lines, which will be visible from the road.
Taking the lines through the Brittas estate would have the least visual impact, said Mr Schulze, who added that the lines would otherwise have to move closer to Nobber.
Underground linesQuestioned about whether the lines could be put underground for 3km, Mr Schulze said there were no impacts of “such significance” that required that. EirGrid has put aside €4 million for a local community fund. Meanwhile, homeowners will get a €30,000 “proximity payment” if they are within 50m of the line. This falls to €5,000 if they are 200m away.
EirGrid says it seeks to locate new lines at least 50m from homes but where this is not achievable, it will deal with owners on an individual basis. The hearing resumed at the Nuremore Hotel yesterday where it heard from the Co Meath Irish Farmers’ Association chairman Diarmuid Lally and Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association president John Comer.
Tomorrow, before Mr Justice Richard Humphreys at the High Court in Dublin, the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign will continue with an application for leave to apply for a judicial review aimed at halting an oral hearing of EirGrid’s application to erect 300 pylons across three counties.
Lawyers for the group have twice requested the presiding inspector Breda Gannon to adjourn the hearing.