Laois anti-EirGrid power project group warn of 'clear and immediate threat'

Anti power plant action group call foul on the undoing of work by EirGrid at €110 million electricity project

By Conor Ganly news@leinsterexpress.ie @laoisnews

An action group in Laois that has fought a long battle against a €110 million electricty project has said there is a 'clear' threat from works that started last week.

The Ratheniska, Spink Timahoe, (RTS) Action Group was responding to restoration works by State owned power company, EirGrid.

The company is undoing work it carried out in the area near the site of a p lanned substation to serve a new Laois Kilkenny power line.

The company carried out work earlier this year without planning permission and was ordered to undo it by Laois County Council.

“There is a clear and immediate threat posed by the demolition of the illegal construction works carried out by Eirgrid sub-contractors over the vulnerable aquifer that supplies clean water to over 2,500 homes, schools and businesses in Laois,” said the RTS Action Group.

The community alerted the local authority to these illegal works in April. It was established that Eirgrid hadn’t complied with many of the 11 planning conditions set down by An Bord Pleanala.

Foremost of the conditions was that Eirgrid had to “agree in writing a Construction and Environmental Management Plan (CEMP)” with the relevant planning authority (LCC). This is basically a site specific assessment of the potential environmental impacts and how best to mitigate them in the physical act of building. Laois County Council then proceeded to issue an “Unauthorised Development” warning to Eirgrid’s 7 directors.

“Such is the seriousness of this offense, the penalties for unauthorised development include possible prison term and €12million euro plus fines. Eirgrid have publicly conceded that unauthorised development had indeed, taken place.

“All three of our TDs have called on Eirgrid to abandon this fatally flawed development, such is the seriousness of the illegal activity involved,” said the action group.

The action group said that on July 4th, LCC received a 1 page document from Eirgrid, which they called “a restoration plan.”

“A few sentences to describe what was to be demolished, where, how the site was to be re-instated, and a list of the plant to be used. Incredibly, again, Eirgrid have not submitted a CEMP as was clearly specified by Bord Pleanala in their planning. For context, typically a CEMP for a development of this scale and impact would run to hundreds of pages of precise technical detail,” the action group said.

In their statement they also state that there was no screening for environmental impacts, no baseline measurements taken, no assessment of impacts.

“Not a word about how the aquifer would be protected in the process of the demolition and deep excavation of these large scale pylon bases,” said a statement.

The RTS group said they are “absolutely appalled” that the Council has decided to “ignore the fact that Eirgrid have again not complied with their planning conditions, and allow them back onto site to demolish their illegal works causing further potential damage to the vulnerable aquifer.”

RTS say the community were very concerned that Eirgrid would return to site. We made representations to the council and our elected representatives. They claim a local councillor and a prominent local TD received assurances from the council that Eirgrid would not be allowed back onto site until the Bord Pleanala planning process reaches conclusion. The Bord Pleanala decision is due in October.

The action group said they were quite shocked to later discover that EirGrid were being allowed back on site..

The Action Group says it has “no confidence in the developer Eirgrid” and cannot “ trust” Laois County Council's planning department.

The action group said there is no other alternative water supply.

“If this aquifer is damaged or destroyed, the consequences for thousands of Laois families are too dire to even think of. We have no idea if the aquifer is already damaged, no idea if it’s being further damaged now, there’s no monitoring in place, no supervision, it’s an absolute shambles and makes a joke of the entire planning process.

“We call on Laois County Council to suspend the demolition works until they have conducted the legally required environmental screening process for the works and An Bord Pleanala have concluded their planning process,” said the group.

They also called on local councillors to demand an explanation as to why Eirgrid was allowed back onto site. They also called on Laois' three TDs to make further representations to Minister Denis Naughten to intervene, and bring national attention to “this scandalous situation.”

In a statement Laois County Council said it received a complaint regarding unauthorised development at this location.

“As is normal practice Laois County Council inspected the site and prepared a report and issued an enforcement notice to the developer.

“The works being carried out are to restore the site to its original condition in compliance with the enforcement notice,”said the council in response to the RTS claims.