Thousands of submissions received by Eirgrid on pylon plan

€500m plan to create 750 high voltage pylon network between Leinster and Munster has run into opposition

The Grid Link project, a €500 million scheme that will create a high voltage link between Leinster and Munster carried on overhead lines involving an estimated 750 pylons. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

The Grid Link project, a €500 million scheme that will create a high voltage link between Leinster and Munster carried on overhead lines involving an estimated 750 pylons. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Wed, Jan 8, 2014, 09:47

The number of submissions received by Eirgrid over its plans to install a network of large pylons across the country had run into thousands by the time its period of public consultation ended last night.

The State utility which is responsible for the national electricity grid had set yesterday as the deadline for submissions on its Grid Link project, a €500 million scheme that will create a high voltage link between Leinster and Munster carried on overhead lines involving an estimated 750 pylons.

An Eirgrid spokesman said last night it was still too early to state how many submissions had been received by the 5pm deadline but it was “in the order of thousands”.

Some 1,500 had come from individuals through a single website rethinkpylons.org, a spokesman for the site said.

The site represents some 65 local groups opposed to overhead cables and pylons passing through their localities. The grounds cited range from health issues, to visual and scenic intrusion, to the impact pylons and nearby overhead lines will have on tourism and property prices.

Senior Government figures including Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte yesterday defended the concept as well as the process in the face of sharp criticism from opposition parties and groups to the arguments and the language they have used. A number of Government backbench TDs, Senators and MEPs have also stated their opposition to the plans.

Yesterday Labour South MEP Phil Prendergast said she had concerns about the health implications of the electromagnetic fields of such cables.

Eirgrid and Mr Rabbitte pointed to Who reports concluding there was no connection between such networks and leukaemia or cancer.

‘Scaremongering’
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was berated by a number of opposition TDs and Senators for his remarks on Monday in which he pointed to people in such areas complaining about emigration where their children moved to countries where pylons were installed as a matter of course.

The comments were described by Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary as “scaremongering” while Senator David Cullinane of Sinn Féin and Independent TD Mattie McGrath also criticised his argument.

All opposition parties, and others including Independent MEPs Marian Harkin and Nessa Childers, have called for independent evaluation of the plans.

Asked about criticism of his comments, Mr Kenny asserted that infrastructure was necessary for the State’s future. “These things [pylons] are not without consequence and it is important that, as we have dealt with matters before that were challenging, we now do so again,” he said while on a Government visit to Doha.

Cost issue
Both Eirgrid and Mr Rabbitte have contended that putting the cables underground will increase the cost by a factor of three. The Minister told The Irish Times last night that 95 per cent of high voltage transmission lines are overhead in Europe.

While broadly setting out an argument for overhead lines with pylons, Mr Rabbitte offered some concession saying that “cost data can change and cost estimates are always uncertain, which emphasises the need for the project-specific solutions”.

“I know many people are concerned about the impact that new transmission lines and other energy infrastructure can have on the landscape, the environment and on local communities. It is therefore essential that Grid25 proceeds on the basis of the best available knowledge on the impacts and costs of different [methods of routing].”

Albert Wasenaar from Lismore, a spokesman for rethinkpylons.org, confirmed that some 1,500 submissions had been sent from its website. He said the groups affiliated would now focus on an intense campaign in the lead up to the local elections in May.

He confirmed the group, which has placed a number of major advertisements in national newspapers, would register with the Standards in Public Office Commission as a third party. He said donations had come from individuals and groups.

Eirgrid will decide on a ‘least constrained corridor’ by the middle of this year, prior to an environmental impact assessment and a formal application to An Bord Pleanála in 2016.

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