Land owners granted right to challenge interconnector

Case centres on a Bord Pleanála permission for 300 pylons for North-South project

Farmers   take part in a North East Pylon Pressure Campaign   protest against the North-South interconnector. File photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Farmers take part in a North East Pylon Pressure Campaign protest against the North-South interconnector. File photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

A group representing about 190 land owners affected by the planned North-South electricity interconnector has secured leave from the High Court to challenge An Bord Pleanála’s permission for the project.

The detailed 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.

The case is against the Bord Pleanála, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, and the State, with EirGrid plc as a notice party. EirGrid has described the planned interconnector as a critical piece of national infrastructure.

The judicial review is brought by the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign Ltd, with an address at Navan, Co Meath, and Maura Sheehy, a farmer, of Teltown Road, Donaghpatrick, Co Meath.

Ms Sheehy said in an affidavit that Donaghpatrick had been home to her sister and herself for some 75 years and they had a small landholding with grazing for about 20 beef cattle. She has “grave concerns” about pylons near her home and feared this “obtrusive” development would destroy “not only my life but the life of my community and the simple rural landscape”.

Third case

The case is the third initiated in the High Court over the interconnector, which is due to run from Batterstown in Co Meath to Turleenan in Co Tyrone.

Earlier this month, David Malone, of Eurolaw Environmental Consultants, St Joseph Terrace, Portarlington, got leave to bring separate proceedings. A decision on whether to grant leave to another man to bring a third, also separate, case, was adjourned on Monday for two weeks.

All three cases concern the decision taken by An Bord Pleanála on December 19th, 2016, following a 12 day oral hearing, to grant EirGrid permission, subject to various conditions, to construct almost 300 pylons in Meath, Cavan and Monaghan.

Separate applications concerning the parts of the development located in Northern Ireland have yet to be decided; an oral hearing concerning those is due to resume in Armagh city on Wednesday.

Seeking leave on Monday for judicial review on behalf of the NEPPC and Ms Sheehy, Conleth Bradley SC said the case raised issues of administrative, constitutional and EU law.

Brexit impact

The board failed in its approval decision to properly address the impact on the rights of the affected landowners of erecting 300 pylons, including on the health of particular landowners, he said. The board also failed to properly consider putting the development, or part of it, underground and the approval fails to meet requirements of the Planning Acts and EU directives concerning habitats and environmental impact.

There are also issues over the status of Eirgrid to make the application and the relationship between it and ESB Networks, the court heard.

Mr Bradley said the board’s decision fails to properly address the European regulation concerning projects of common interest (PCIs) and the Brexit impact concerning this project for a single electricity market.

While the board referred to the project having an impact on Northern Ireland, described in the board decision as part of an EU member state, the decision failed to properly consider the consequences of UK withdrawal from the EU, he said.

While his side anticipated the board might respond to the claims relating to Brexit by arguing the project could be split, his side contended it could not, counsel said.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan granted leave for judicial review on the grounds advanced and returned the matter to April 25th. He granted a stay on implementation of the conditions of the permission but gave liberty to the respondents and notice parties to apply if they wished to vary the terms of the stay.