Court to decide on "double compensation" to landowners for laying of ESB lines

  • ESB says issue is of "national significance"
  • Farmer sought €640,500 compensation
Stock photo
Stock photo

Tim Healy

A High Court judge has directed a hearing of key legal issues concerning the extent of the ESB's liability for compensation to landowners for laying of electricity lines across their lands.

The ESB sought that hearing after a Co Meath farmer, Kenneth Payne, who had received €66,000 "Flexibility of Access" payments between March 2015 and August 2017 when electricity lines were laid across his lands at Cappaboggan, Moyfenarth, later sought €640,500 compensation under section 53.5 of the Electricity Supply Act 1927.

When agreement could not be reached on his claim, it went to hearing before a property arbitrator.

During the arbitration hearing, Mr Payne reduced his claim to €400,660.

The ESB had asked the arbitrator to refer legal issues of "national significance" to the High Court concerning assessment of compensation under section 53.5 of the 1927 Act.

Its concerns included whether Mr Payne was being "doubly compensated".

The arbitrator refused to state a case, for reasons including he believed the issue was "not germane" to the arbitration and he was also concerned he lacked jurisdiction to state a case.

The ESB took High Court judicial review proceedings over that refusal to the High Court.

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Neither the arbitrator nor Mr Payne took part in those proceedings.

In his judgment on Friday, Mr Justice Michael Twomey said the issue is whether the €66,000 payment to Mr Payne for his co-operation in allowing the ESB access his lands to lay lines, and in recognition of the disruption such access might cause, should be taken into account in calculating the statutory compensation due to him under section 53.3 of the 1927 Act.

The question whether Mr Payne, as suggested by the ESB, is being doubly compensated at the expense of the public purse is "not insignificant", he said.

He considered the arbitrator should have stated a case to the High Court and said he would direct him to do so.

Th judge stressed, while he had found the arbitrator's decision not to state a case was erroneous, he recognised the arbitrator had considered his job was to determine compensation, not to decide whether previous payments should be take into account and he was also concerned about incurring unnecessary costs which would have to be met from public funds.

The ESB had argued the resolution of the issues is of "national significance".

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