Communities across the country are convulsed at EirGrid’s proposals to erect high voltage 400 kV overhead power lines, Tipperary Independent Deputy Seamus Healy told the Dáil.
“There is huge concern, frustration and anger at the Grid25 proposal across the Munster counties of Cork, Tipperary, Waterford and the Leinster counties of Wexford, Kilkenny, Carlow and Kildare,” he said. “Thousands of people have turned out at public meetings. I congratulate the various action groups involved and thank the legendary Sean Kelly for his leadership on this issue. This is an intolerable proposal, which is and will be resisted.”
Speaking on the Order of Business, Deputy Healy said everybody accepts that this country must have top quality electrical infrastructure. What is at issue is the manner of the delivery of that infrastructure and the proposal in this regard, namely, the erection of 750 monster pylons along a 250 km route.
“These pylons will be 45 metres high, ten times the height of the average bungalow, and will be erected at 330 metre intervals,” he said. “EirGrid has stated that where possible these pylons will be located 50 metres from houses. Residents along the route will have to live with these pylons 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year for the remainder of their lives.”
This infrastructure will blight the landscape for locals and visitors alike and will destroy our tourism industry, he said. “Some of the most scenic areas in my constituency of South Tipperary are affected, including the Galtee Knockmealdown Valley, the heritage town of Cahir, the Golden Vale into Clonmel, the Valley of Slievenamon, the Suir Valley into Faugheen and Carrick-on-Suir and on into Waterford and the Comeragh Mountains and its special areas of conservation and habitats.
EirGrid is involved in a divide and conquer of residents along these routes, setting them against one another. It is setting neighbours against one another by offering compensation to some and not to others who are equally or more affected. Devaluation of properties and significant health issues are other reasons for opposing this project.”
Best international practice is that these high voltage power lines must be laid underground and-or under sea, he said. “Denmark is a good example, but only one of many, where these lines are placed underground. This is obviously technically possible and financially feasible.”
In reply the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the Government does not have a role in directing EirGrid to particular sites, routes or technologies. This is a matter for EirGrid and the forward planning process.
“Public acceptance and understanding of the need for new infrastructure is critical,” he said. “A key part of developing this public confidence is that EirGrid should adhere to the highest international standards of safety, health, environmental and visual impact and technology choice. The planning process provides the framework for ensuring that necessary standards are met and provides in law and on a non-statutory basis that consultation with the public be built into that process. EirGrid must adhere to national and international standards on health, environment, biodiversity, landscape and safety as an intrinsic part of the environmental impact assessment and planning process. It is required to use the best available advice and expertise and to address and mitigate any human, environmental or landscape impact in delivering the best possible engineering solutions for our small and still isolated electricity system.”
minister not looking after south tipperary
Speaking separately during Question Time with the Minister for Agriculture & Food, Independent Deputy Mattie McGrath asked if there has been any risk-benefit analysis carried out regarding the impact that the EirGrid grid link project will have on the agricultural economy of south Tipperary and if his attention has been drawn to the fact that South Tipperary has a thriving beef and dairy industry with major companies having long established businesses there.
“His colleague, the Minister of State, met a select group, kept his head down and said that the project would go ahead and that the Government could not stop it,” he said. “I am depending on the Minister. I believed that the Minister of State, Deputy Tom Hayes, would look after South Tipperary, but unfortunately he will not.”
In reply Minister Simon Coveney said Grid 25 represents a more than €3 billion investment programme to develop and upgrade the electricity transmission network across the country. “Of course this will involve a network crossing rural areas,” he said. “We already have a considerable electricity network crossing farmland all over the country without any significant negative consequence of which I am aware. Perhaps the Deputy can provide evidence to suggest that there is. We already have two 410 kV lines crossing the Midlands from Moneypoint to Dublin. The vast majority of that journey is farmland, but I am unaware of any disastrous consequence from that.”
The Minister said there is an obligation on EirGrid to do a proper job, including all of the assessments that are necessary to reassure people and to pick the right route, but it was not for him as the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to dictate to EirGrid how it should do that.
“It has a statutory obligation to do it properly. We are in the middle of a public consultation process in that regard and people are having their say. They are vocal and concerned about this matter.”