The legal validity of the last week’s Oral Hearing into Eirgrid’s Laois-Kilkenny Reinforcement Plan was called into question before it got underway.
Legal expert Peter Sweetman, who has taken An Bord Pleanála to the High Court before, was representing several Ratheniska residents.
He claimed the original planning application, submitted last January, was invalid, as it did not include an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and so An Bord Pleanála broke the law by accepting it.
“I believe you should take legal advice, because as you know if I don’t like what I’m getting I do go to the High Court,” he told the Bord’s inspector Andrew Boyle, who is conducting the Oral Hearing.
Enforcement officer with Environment Action Alliance Ireland (EAAI), David Malone, questioned why the hearing was taking place, saying they were entitled to four weeks to consider any new information.
“If new information comes up here, do we do what Peter said?” he asked the inspector.
Inspt Boyle said there was not going to be any “substantial new information”, and the hearing would go ahead, prompting an angry reply from Mr Sweetman.
“I take absolute exception on a decision being taken by you. This should come from a decision maker (in Bord Pleanála). You have refused to listen to what I said, to address the fact that this application is invalid in law. This will be raised in the judicial review of this procedure,” Mr Sweetman said.
Barrister for Eirgrid Jarleth FitzSimons said had been told by An Bord Pleanála that the project did not need an EIS.
“However in April 2013 the board requested an EIS and it was submitted last August. Any perceived irregularity has been resolved,” he said.
Further legal irregularities with the application were also pointed out by EAAI’s David Malone. He read aloud a lengthy document for over two hours, listing in detail many European legal directives and regulations that he claimed were broken, both by Eirgrid and by An Bord Pleanála. These included a failure to give enough information in the Non-technical Summary, and a failure to ensure the public were allowed early and effective participation in the decision making process.