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Tuesday 23 January 2018

Wicklow farmers putting themselves in 'danger' to prevent laying of cables from wind farm

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Ray Managh

A bid to restrain protesters from preventing the laying of cables from a Co Wicklow wind farm to connect with the national electricity grid has been put back by the High Court until next month.

Barrister Oisin Collins, counsel for a number of landowners along the 22 kilometre route of the proposed cabling, told Mr Justice Paul McDermott today Wednesday that Ballycumber Wind Farm Limited wanted to excavate private lands to lay its cables.

Mr Collins, who appeared with O’Connell and Clarke Solicitors, said the excavations were planned along and under a roadway and his clients claimed ownership of the land under the road surface.

“The issue is whether, where a public right of way exists across the surface of a road, outside private parties are entitled to dig up and lay pipes underneath that road,” Mr Collins said.

The court had heard that protesters were putting themselves in danger in a bid to prevent the laying of the cables and Mr Stephen Dowling, counsel for the wind farm, was seeking interlocutory injunctions restraining them from preventing or interfering with cable laying works.

Mr Dowling told the court the protesters were believed to be land owners and members of the South Wicklow Wind Action Group and that in the last week some of them had stood in front of a JCB digger.

The wind farm claims the protesters are putting themselves in harms way of dangerous equipment in order to prevent the laying of cables to connect the six-turbine wind farm at Ballycumber, Tinahely, Arklow,to an ESB station at Kilmagig, Co Wicklow.

Mr Dowling told the court that if the alleged interference was allowed to continue, the €31million wind farm project would face financial damage if unable to meet a supply timeline by December next.  Protests were putting the timeline in jeopardy and important completion deadlines for various stages would be missed.

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Mr Collins told Judge McDermott that the works were being carried out on private lands and amounted to trespass.  He required time for the presentation of affidavits and consideration of bringing a counter claim for trespass.

“One of my clients claim to own the lands where the excavations are to take place and he has no interest in obstructing works providing they are carried out lawfully,” Mr Collins said. “I say the existence of a right of way over my land does not entitle a private company to lay cabling under it.”

Mr Collins said it had been planned to lay cabling along a 22 kilometre stretch of roadway and at present there were eight defendants listed in the court proceedings. 

“I represent all of the main defendants but there may be a great deal more parties involved than currently not represented before the court,” he said.  “I may have to issue proceedings restraining trespass and there may be a number of identical applications up and down the length of the roadway.”

Mr Dowling said the wind farm would be seeking interlocutory restraints against the protesters and his client would have to establish it had a right to excavate trenches for cables along the roadway.

Judge McDermott adjourned the matter until early September.


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