ESB proposals to blatantly breach planning conditions and ignore basic landowner rights demands Government action.

February 6, 2019

Unacceptable proposals unfairly put Local Authorities on front line for a project they never approved.

It has come to the attention of NEPPC, through AIE requests, that in June 2018 ESB/N has submitted to senior planning executives in Meath, Cavan and Monaghan Local Authorities (LA’s) a detailed draft report on their proposed approach to discharging the 9 Planning Conditions for the North-South Interconnector (NSI). ESB/N subsequently held a joint meeting with all 3 LA’s in September 2018 to discuss the report and make recommendations for agreement by the LA’s. (The fact that ESB/N has no authority to submit such a report to the LA’s is dealt with in a separate press release).

It is the view of NEPPC that the report is breath-taking in its blatant dismissal of the essence of the Conditions and in its unashamed recommendations to request agreement from the LA’s to breach many of the key Conditions.

It should be noted from the outset that An Bord Pleanála (ABP), in granting approval for the NSI application, highlighted that it had given Eirgrid the benefit of the doubt in relation to gaps in environmental information particularly related to land access and pylon construction, given that Eirgrid did not submit any of the 584 access routes for planning approval. ABP then addressed these gaps by imposing very specific and time defined Conditions, the vast majority of which require implementation ‘prior to the commencement of development’.

The ESB/N Report proposals, however, seek to ignore this core aspect of the Conditions and instead are requesting a rolling discharge of the planning conditions. The escape route approach taken is to seek agreement for continually updating Conditions that should actually be fulfilled prior to the commencement of development. This is encapsulated in the sentence: it is envisaged that deliverables initially agreed with the Planning Authorities to ensure compliance with conditions prior to commencement of development will be updated on an ongoing basis’.

ABP lays out the Conditions very clearly in Condition 1:

‘Where such conditions require details to be agreed with the relevant planning authority, the undertaker shall agree such details in writing with the planning authority prior to commencement of development and the development shall be carried out and completed in accordance with the agreed particulars.

Condition 3 is a key Condition in relation to Construction & Environmental Management:

‘Prior to the commencement of development, a construction and environmental management plan, a traffic management plan and a waste management plan shall be submitted to, and agreed in writing with, the relevant planning authority following consultations with relevant statutory agencies…….

The reasons given by ABP for the Condition are: ‘In the interest of protecting the amenities of the area, sustainable waste management, preventing pollution of surface waters, protection of existing habitats, and traffic safety’.

Yet what does ESB/N propose to the LA’s and seek agreement on? That the Construction Environment Plan, the Traffic management Plan and the Waste Management Plans be ‘live’ documents that can continuously be updated throughout the construction phase.

Condition 3 also requires prior to the commencement of development:

(c)        site specific arrangements for each temporary access route, to include, where necessary: 

i.          arrangements for stepping down vehicle size, 

ii.         arrangements for off-loading of materials, 

Yet ESBN make the request that it provides only the means of access, but not the access routes themselves until the ‘final’ traffic management plan (TMP) is submitted during the construction phase. ESB/N proposes to submit access proposals in an ad-hoc manner whenever it plans to construct a cluster of pylons. It recommends skirting around the ‘prior to commencement of development condition’ by seeking agreement with the LA for a ‘template TMP that can be used to avoid submitting all access routes. It recommends selecting up to 10 locations in Counties Monaghan and Meath and up to 5 locations in County Cavan as examples, rather than the 584 specific access routes. The justification for this is ‘to allow the methodology and content of the TMP as it relates to vehicular access to be as up to date as possible’.

 A litany of similar outrageous proposals are made in relation to the many other Conditions.

In summary, here we have a report produced by ESBI for ESB/N, neither of which has the authority to seek variations on the approved planning conditions. The proposals themselves show a complete disdain and disrespect for An Bord Pleanála in their attempt to wilfully circumvent and deviate from conditions that were imposed in order to protect the Environment. The proposals unsurprisingly display an even greater disdain and disrespect for the affected landowners in particular, as ESB/N plans on not informing landowners of planned access to their lands until they are ready to commence construction. The proposals are submitted to the LA’s without Eirgrid, the actual Developer which was given responsibility for implementing the Conditions, even being mentioned.

This level of arrogance reveals a culture of abuse of power and a need for change within ESB. This is a step too far, because it undermines ABP and it gives two fingers to the democratic process. NEPPC has stated that the only way the NSI could be constructed would be by breaching the Conditions, because Eirgrid never submitted, applied or received approval for a single access onto land. Imagine seeking approval for c.300 construction sites, but no approval for access or egress.

We continually call for Government to hold these companies to account. We have had deafening silence for over 10 years. If the Government does not hold ESB and Eirgrid to account then the people will.


Aimée Treacy, NEPPC


Filed under: Press Releases,Press Releases 2019

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