Locals oppose ESB power line from Roscommon to Sligo


The ESB is facing opposition to its plans to build a 220-kV power line from Roscommon to Sligo, despite its argument that upgraded supply is essential for further development of the north west.

Four groups along the 63kilometre route have joined forces in calling for the line to be underground to minimise the impact on the environment, tourism and health.

The latest confrontation comes after a Bord Pleanala oral hearing into a proposed sub-station and power line in west Donegal. The outcome of the hearing, due at the end of January, will be watched closely in Sligo.

The proposed line goes from Flagford in north Co Roscommon to a new sub-station to be built at Srananagh near Sooey in Co Sligo. It does not take a direct route but circles through rural areas of Roscommon, Leitrim and east Sligo. Locals are alarmed at the prospect of large steel towers crossing the countryside. The pylons will be over 30 metres in height and a distance of 280 metres apart.

The action groups, based near Boyle in Co Roscommon and at Riverstown and Sooey in Co Sligo, are now planning to approach all 400 landowners affected to urge them to oppose the power line. Public meetings have also been held over the past week.

Mr Toby Hall, spokesman for the central committee of action groups, stressed the groups were not anti-development and wanted the electricity supply to be upgraded. They argue for a "utilities corridor" running alongside an upgraded N4 dual carriageway which would take electricity, gas and telecommunications cables. "What we are proposing is an integrated planning strategy - this is the way of the future," said Mr Hall.

The proposed power line would cut through Sligo's main culture and tourism routes and would go near important megalithic sites, he said. "You will see these pylons from miles around - it would totally destroy the tourism amenity of the county." Property prices were already being affected as nobody wanted to live near such pylons.

The action groups argue that the only reason the ESB refuses to take the line underground is the extra cost, and they say monies from the national development plan could be used to meet this.

Mr Bernard O'Reilly, transmission asset manager with the ESB, accepted cost was a factor and said if transmission lines were put underground, the cost would be passed to the consumer, and Ireland would be "put at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the world". Faults on underground cables also took much longer to repair.

The line could not be put underground along the N4 as this would rule out any future changes to the road, he said.

The proposed route was chosen after widespread consultation, Mr O'Reilly said, to have minimum impact on communities, the environment and archaeological sites.

He said if any company wanted to build a large factory in Sligo he could not guarantee supply. The ESB wanted to upgrade the transmission system to ensure "a level playing field for the west and north west of the country".