Thursday, 11 November 2010

Call for inquiry into pylon case

Fine Gael has backed calls for an independent inquiry into the collapse last June of the planning process for the Government's €280 million North-South electricity interconnector.

An anti-pylon group in Co Monaghan opposing elements of the project has already called or an independent investigation into the matter.

An error in the original application for the €280 million line through Meath, Cavan and Monaghan forced the State’s electricity network operator, Eirgrid, to withdraw the application on June 29th during a Bord Pleanála hearing into the issue.

The public notice, which is part of the application, stated the pylons supporting the power lines would be between 23 and 37 metres high, but it should have read 23 to 44 metres.

A review into the matter published by Eirgrid recently found that incorrect information was supplied by ESB International (ESBI), a firm fully owned by the ESB.

“The error arose through incorrect information being provided by one of Eirgrid's consultants, namely ESBI, and the error was inadvertent, or 'human error',” the report said.

Mr Varadkar noted the Eirgrid report and said the North-South interconnector was a "vital piece of national infrastructure".

"It is simply not good enough that its progress will now be delayed by over six months due to errors made by consultants," he said.

He said many people had incurred cost and spent time to contribute to the An Bord Pleanála hearing and that "at the very least, they have been discommoded".

"The collapse of the planning process will do nothing to help includecommunities in the planning and consultation process for the interconnector as they already viewed such schemes with deep suspicion."

Mr Varadkar said an independent inquiry should be established to find out exactly what errors occurred and that those responsible should be made fund the planning observations of third parties who had already incurred a cost during the first An Bord Pleanála hearing.

A spokesman for the Monaghan Anti-Pylon Group said Eirgrid’s report into the circumstances that led to the withdrawal of the planning application for the Meath-Tyrone 400Kv interconnector development was “totally inadequate”.

A spokesman said the report did not appear to have investigated why a “serious discrepancy” existed between the public notice that Eirgrid submitted to local newspapers on Thursday December 17th, 2009, and the planning application submitted to An Board Pleanála the following day.

“It seems inconceivable that the day after an error was made in a planning notice, the exact same figures were miraculously ommitted from an official planning application,” a spokesman said.

Eirgrid will have to resubmit its application to An Bord Pleanála and go through a second public hearing.

A spokesman for Eirgrid said the application would be resubmitted “as soon as possible” but that this was not likely to be until the new year.

Irish Times

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