ESB test case could slash compo for farmers

ESB workers restoring power to a farm in Glamire, Cork after Hurricane Ophelia
Pic:Mark Condren
ESB workers restoring power to a farm in Glamire, Cork after Hurricane Ophelia Pic:Mark Condren

Tim Healy

FARMERS may face reduced compensation being paid by the ESB for access to land if the ESB wins a test case it has taken.

The ESB wants the Com­mercial Court to rule on a €640,500 claim for access to land.

The ESB is facing compen­sation claims for some €3.5m from property owners whose land is needed to run power cables for the national infra­structure.

Already, some €1.9m has already been paid in up-front payments to landowners af­fected by the 24km Kinnegad to Mullingar line, it says.

One landowner along that line, who has already accept­ed a €66,000 payment for “flexibility of access” to his property, has put in a claim for nearly 10 times that amount, the ESB says.

Arbitrator

Now the ESB has sought the Commercial Court to rule on whether the €66,000 payment can be taken into account by an arbitrator who has been appointed to decide Ken­neth Payne’s €640,500 claim for access to his land in Co Meath.

ESB landowner engagement manager Colm Smyth says in an affidavit that the cost of this compensation “directly im­pacts on the cost of electricity”. He says the ESB is experienc­ing “a substantial growth” in such claims and for requests that they be sent for arbitra­tion.

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In the Payne case, the ESB asked arbitrator Desmond Boyle, who was appointed to deal with the claim, to state a case to the High Court on whether the €66,000 should be taken into account in as­sessing compensations.

Mr Boyle decided it was inappropriate for him to do so.

The ESB then brought its own case to the High Court seeking the matter be adju­dicated on in order to bring clarity to the situation.

Mr Justice Robert Haugh­ton admitted the case to the fast-track Commercial Court after he said it was effectively a test case on an important, but discreet, point.

The judge was also told that Mr Boyle was not taking part in the proceedings as his position was akin to that of a District Judge who would also not be party to such cases.

Mr Justice Haughton said he would welcome the arbitra­tor reconsidering his position as otherwise there would be no proper opponent in the case.

The matter has been adjourned to June.

Indo Farming