EirGrid sued over pylon planning error


AN ANTI-pylon group is suing EirGrid over costs incurred in a planning hearing concerning the proposed North-South electricity interconnector, which was aborted due to an error in a public notice which gave an incorrect height for a number of pylons.

The action is by Co Monaghan Anti-Pylon Ltd, a company representing campaigners who want a €280 million high-voltage power line from Meath to Tyrone put underground because of fears of cancer-causing radiation from overhead cables.

The group had initiated High Court proceedings for orders requiring EirGrid to pay its costs of the aborted planning hearing, plus an injunction preventing An Bord Pleanála considering a new planning application by EirGrid until those costs are paid.

The campaigners claim EirGrid wrongfully induced them to participate in a flawed process and that they are entitled to their costs of attending the planning hearing which was in its 21st day when a local councillor noted some of the pylons in the planning application were higher than those published in the press notice.

Significant financial loss was suffered by the campaigners as a result of the error, they claimed.

EirGrid, which later withdrew its planning application, has argued that while there was an error in the press notice, the correct heights were included in the environmental impact statement and in accompanying planning drawings.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly transferred the case to the Commercial Court yesterday at the request of EirGrid, which said it was seeking to have the case fast-tracked both because of the injunction application and because of the value of the project.

The consequences of any delay in the resolution of the case would be well in excess of €1 million (the financial threshold for transfer to the Commercial Court), counsel for EirGrid said. EirGrid was also to seek an order requiring the group to provide security for the legal costs of its action, he added.

The judge made directions for the exchange of legal documents between the sides and returned the security-for-costs application for hearing in March.

EirGrid says it has already spent €13.7 million on the project, which it hopes will be completed. It claims the interconnector will deliver significant savings to electricity customers by alleviating congestion on the transmission network for generators of electricity.

If the campaigners’ case was to go through the normal High Court process, it could take two years with costs conservatively estimated at €3.15 million, EirGrid’s solicitor Deirdre Nagle said in the application seeking transfer.

EirGrid had refused to pay the campaign group its planning hearing costs on grounds there was no basis in law for that, she said.