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New power line approved by two votes to one

An Bord Pleanála has decided by two votes to one to approve Eirgrid’s planning application for a new overhead power line from Clashavoon northeast of Macroom to Dunmanway.

It’s only five weeks to the day that a Bord Pleanála four-day public hearing regarding Eirgrid’s application concluded in the Castle Hotel in Macroom.

There were 20 objections, including submissions from the local Communities Before Pylons protest group, against the 40 km overhead power line, which will consist of two shield wires and three conductor wires supported on 200 double wood- pole structures (five meters apart) and 20 steel towers up to 25 meters high, and which will extend through 40 townlands between Rusheen and Dunmanway.

The planning board’s decision was made when three of its members met on Monday, October 8 to consider the objections, documents and submissions, as well as the Inspector’s report which was filed on Friday, October 5.

At the conclusion of the Macroom hearing on September 13, the Board Inspector who chaired the proceedings, described the official October 8 decision date as “very tight”, and indicated the Board’s deliberation might take longer.

“Eirgrid, and the majority of other submissions were submitted in written form and are attached to the file – in many cases these are very detailed and with attachments, drawings and photographs, and I would recommend they be read in full for a full assessment of the arguments submitted,” said the Inspector in his report to the Board.

In making its decision, the Board rejected a recommendation by the Inspector to place the first 12km of the power line underground from the Clashavoon substation “through the relatively heavily populated lowland plains around Carrigadrohid”, and also did not accept his recommended option of a change of route for 15 of the 200 pole sets.

“Without wishing to dismiss the value of the landscape or the impact on residents in the southern twothirds of the line, I do not consider on the basis of the information provided that undergrounding could be justified for the majority of the line, but I do consider that a strong case was made by the observers that an underground option between Clashavoon, following roads where possible south, connecting up with a transformer and overhead line somewhere in the Terelton area would be justified,” said the Inspector in his report.

The underground section would require a different route and the Inspector stated in bold print: “If the Board were to consider that Eirgrid did not adequately address all possible options for a hybrid line, then I would recommend a refusal for this reason.”

The Inspector also considered pole sets 57 to 72 on the route through Shandangan to be “among the most problematic.”

“The most logical route in my opinion extends from just south of braced pole set 55 (next to Old Fort), and would run south-west, crossing Curragh Cross Roads, joining up with the route in the vicinity of pole set 72,” stated the Inspector’s report.

In deciding not to seek revisions to the proposed route in relation to undergrounding a section of it, the Board considered that the degree of sensitivity “did not warrant this change”, and regarding the recommended change of route involving 15 pole sets, it “was not convinced a net benefit would arise in overall terms, taking into account settlement and visual amenities”.

The Board Inspector considered that the economic benefits of the proposal would be “strongly positive”.

“The proposed line is intended to strengthen the local power network, and as such would be a component in facilitating economic development in the region, although the main industry to be facilitated would be the renewable energy industry, wind farms in particular.

“It would make the area more suitable for certain types of industrial users, in particular those which require guaranteed security of electricity supply, although there are no indications that any such industries are proposed in the area,” stated the Inspector.

The Inspector noted that the proposed 110 kilovolt power line is intended as a back-up line for two existing 110kv lines in the south west Cork region, one of which already runs from Macroom to Dunmanway.

“I would note that even one large industrial energy user would make a major difference, and it would be of concern that the region would be disadvantaged if a potential major employer was lost because of the lack of security given by just two circuits.”

In its approval, An Bord Pleanála had regard to the National Development Plan, the County Development Plan, the National Spatial Strategy and the “demonstrated need for the development in improving infrastructure provision in the region, in particular, to accommodate renewable energy generation and provide grid stability”.

There are seven conditions attached to the approved development, one of which requires the developer to agree a protocol to survey and protect the Kerry Slug species if its presence is identified in the Kilmichael area.

The Inspector had recommended eight conditions, including a noise condition during construction and commissioning of the power line, but the Board “did not consider that a noise condition was appropriate for an overhead line”.

Bird warning markers have to be provided on the line in the Carrigadrohid area so as to protect wild birds whose flight paths cross the route of the transmission line.