Thursday 30 October 2014

EirGrid denies ploughing ahead with pylons plan despite ongoing review

Published 08/06/2014 | 02:30

James Fennell, owner of Burtown House, Athy, Co Kildare. The proposed pylon route is to run through his garden. Picture: David Conachy
James Fennell, owner of Burtown House, Athy, Co Kildare. The proposed pylon route is to run through his garden. Picture: David Conachy

EIRGRID is powering ahead with its pylons project, despite the ongoing expert review into the controversial plan to erect giant metal structures across the countryside, residents living along the proposed routes have claimed.

Suspicions were raised in recent weeks after EirGrid sought access to lands along one of the proposed Grid Link routes through Kildare, despite the Government's promise to review the plans ahead of the elections.

According to the Grid Link Action Group, the landowner in question, who was contacted by phone, did not grant the company access to the land, which is believed to be home to a significant heritage site and instead asked that the company put their access request in writing.

EirGrid confirmed to the Sunday Independent that its officials had been in contact with the landowner, but denied that this represented evidence of the progress of pylon plans in the area.

"We can confirm that consultant archaeologists working on behalf of EirGrid recently made contact with a landowner in Co Kildare to gain access to lands at Dun Ailinne in Co Kildare, which is a candidate Unesco heritage site," the spokesman said.

"The purpose of the request was to carry out a site inspection of the monument, which will assist in assessing the historic character of the area and the setting of Dun Ailinne within it. The work involved a non-invasive visual inspection and photographic record of the monument."

EirGrid stressed that this request was in the context of the recently appointed Independent Expert Panel's review of the plans, whose terms of reference include "comprehensive, route-specific studies/reports of the Grid Link and Grid West projects, including fully undergrounded and overhead options for each of the projects, including assessments of potential environmental impacts, technical efficacy and cost factors".

The company confirmed that a number of site visits along the routes were ongoing, but that this case had been "the only such visit in recent weeks that required access to privately owned lands".

Opposition to the Grid Link project is growing in Kildare, despite the ongoing expert review into the company's plans to run hundreds of 43-metre pylons from Knockraha in Cork and into Dunstown in Co Kildare.

"It's still very much a political issue," a spokesperson for the Grid Link Action Group said.

The importance of the pylon issue in Co Kildare was reflected in the recent local election results, which differed drastically from the national party trends, with a number of anti-pylon candidates securing seats.

More than 4,000 land and homeowners have now made submissions to Kildare County Council as part of the public consultation taking place, following the outgoing council members' decision to re-open the county development plan to address the issue.

As a major part of the Grid Link project will run through Co Kildare, it is a vital area for EirGrid. However, the resistance from residents has increased in recent weeks, rather than diminishing, as it has done in many other counties along the proposed routes following the news of an expert review of the plans.

Many landowners along the proposed Grid Link corridors in Kildare have put signs on the gates to their lands, warning EirGrid officials and agents to keep out.

Along with the health concerns associated with the proposed pylons, many residents in Kildare oppose the plans on the grounds they will harm the county's rich horse breeding and racing industry, as well as tourism in the area.

James Fennell, who owns Burton House and Gardens in Athy, Co Kildare, which has been home to four generations of the Fennell family, says the pylon plan would destroy his business, which is based on the beauty of the local landscape.

Over the past decade, the Fennells have built the house – a part of the first Quaker settlement in both the UK and Ireland – up into a successful agricultural tourism destination, with the wild gardens and artist studios on site which have become a huge draw for many high-end international tour operators.

"We're at a point on the proposed plans where two routes cross," Mr Fennell said. "It would be an incredible disaster for us if the pylons go ahead. The top three attractions for tourists to Ireland are heritage, gardens and walking. People would not come to visit these gardens with big pylons in view. It's mind-boggling that it could even be considered."

Sunday Independent

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