High Court rules Eirgrid can do planning compliance works for interconnector
Interests of justice and balance of convenience entitled Eirgrid to the variations
The North East Pylon Pressure Campaign opposes the Eirgrid North-South interconnector development. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh
A judge has granted Eirgrid’s application to vary a stay which had prevented it doing preparatory works to conform with planning conditions for the proposed North-South electricity interconnector.
A number of landowners and others challenging the interconnector opposed the variations and argued Eirgrid should await the court’s decision on its full case, to be heard in July.
In his ruling on Wednesday, Mr Justice Brian McGovern said the interests of justice and balance of convenience entitled Eirgrid to the variations.
The planned variations, including carrying out road and archaeological surveys, did not involve construction works on the interconnector and did not involve Eirgrid entering onto the applicants’ lands, he said.
The interconnector is an important piece of infrastructure and Eirgrid has to take complex and time-consuming steps to comply with the planning conditions, he said.
He would vary the stay as sought because Eirgrid would suffer much greater prejudice than the applicants if the variation was not permitted, he held.
The case by North East Pylon Pressure Campaign Ltd (NEPPC), representing about 190 affected landowners, and Maura Sheehy, a farmer, of Teltown Road, Donaghpatrick, Co Meath, is the first of three challenges over the interconnector due to be heard at the Commercial Court in July.
The case is against An Bord Pleanála; the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; and the State, with Eirgrid as a notice party.
All three cases concern the December 19th 2016 decision by the board to grant Eirgrid permission, subject to conditions, to construct almost 300 pylons in counties Meath, Cavan and Monaghan.
The NEPPC grounds of challenge include claims of failure by the board to properly address the potential impact of Brexit on the project and to consider environmental issues and the rights of affected landowners.
On Wednesday, Jarlath Fitzsimons SC, for Eirgrid, said the proposed variation of the stay was necessary to do works to comply with conditions imposed by the board. The stay on those works was imposed ex parte (one side only represented) and was having a “draconian” effect, he said.
The proposed works included, for example, construction of a storage materials yard near Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, and did not involve entry onto the applicants’ lands, he said.
Another condition requiring Eirgrid to ensure road surfaces are protected during construction involves carrying out pre-construction surveys but, due to the stay, Eirgrid cannot start work on those.
Esmonde Keane SC, for the residents, argued Eirgrid had failed to show the applicants would not be prejudiced by such variation. There was also no evidence showing Eirgrid would be prejudiced by having to consult with the residents and various bodies such as the National Parks and Wildlife Service before carrying out preparatory works, he said.
If the stay was varied, Eirgrid might conclude agreements with local authorities concerning certain works about which his clients were not consulted and that could lead to further proceedings, he said.
His clients might have to deal with concrete trucks going past their front doors and the building of bridges and culverts and were also concerned about possible intrusions on their privacy as a result of “edge of the road” archaeological surveys.
The other two cases over the interconnector – by David Malone, of Eurolaw Environmental Consultants, St Joseph’s Terrace, Portarlington, Co Laois, and Val Martin, a farmer and environmental campaigner of Gortnakesh, Cavan – will also be heard in July.
Eirgrid says the €286 million interconnector is necessary to comply with obligations of EU and national energy policy guidelines.