Corrib pipeline hearing resumes


An Bord Pleanála has resumed its oral hearing in north Mayo into Shell E&P Ireland's planning application for the last section of the Corrib gas high pressure pipeline.

Disputes over procedural issues dominated this morning's opening session, including questions from objectors relating to the legality of a 10-metre section of pipeline which has already been laid by the developers.

When Bord Pleanála turned down a plan for a previous route late last year, primarily on safety grounds, it also ruled that this 10-metre section laid on the shore at Glengad should have been submitted for planning approval.

Mayo County Council maintains officially that it is exempt from planning, in conflict with Bord Pleanála's position.

Shell S&P Ireland told the hearing today that this section was deemed exempted from planning, and was laid under consents awarded by the Government in 2002 under the Gas Act.

The resumed hearing under the Strategic Infrastructure Act is focusing on a revised application by the Corrib gas developers, which involves tunnelling a section of the revised pipeline route under the Sruwaddacon estuary special area of conservation (SAC).

The hearing will also deal with a compulsory acquisition order application by Shell for access to lands on this third route, which links the gas pipeline landfall at Glengad to the gas terminal at Ballinaboy.

Bord Pleanála inspector Martin Nolan said he intends to limit the hearing to about 10 days, and has requested that oral submissions by observers be limited to 15 to 20 minutes.

He said that while he "fully appreciated" the "deeply held positions", he did not want "heated argument". He said that "measured, accurate clear argument, presented factually for all to hear" would be more effective in his view.

One of the initial procedural rows related to Mr Nolan's request for all questions to be submitted to him in writing on green sheets provided.

Environmentalist Peter Sweetman said he would refuse to comply with this request, which was "unprecedented" in his view.

Rossport Solidarity Camp member Eoin Ó Leidhin also sought clarification on behalf of his group in relation to a series of issues which, he said, would be fundamental to his group's participation in the hearing.

He said that one of the fundamental issues related to where the pipeline began and ended - a question that had been raised, but had not been answered, when the oral hearing ran during May and June of last year.

Mr Nolan has said he will deal with all queries tomorrow morning.

Shell E&P Ireland outlined details of its revised plan this afternoon, and its presentation will continue tomorrow, with prescribed bodies listed to speak on Thursday morning. Submissions both for and against the new plan will begin on Thursday afternoon, and have been scheduled to last two-and-a-half days.

Some 680,000 cubic metres of material will be generated during construction of the 4.9 km tunnel as part of the revised 8km pipeline route, RPS technical director Ciarán Butler told the hearing, speaking on behalf of Shell.

The proposed route meets Bord Pleanala's new criteria in relation to proximity to dwellings, Mr Butler said. The 2005 onshore pipeline route separation distance was 70 metres, and was 140 metres under a modified plan submitted and considered in 2008-9, he said. This latest route's separation distance from housing is 234 metres, he said.

The hearing continues this evening.