Extra time to give views on €500m power line plan
THE public will be given six more weeks to express their concerns about a €500m high-voltage power line planned across nine counties.
National grid operator EirGrid has extended the public consultation period until January 7 for the 230km Grid Link line which runs from Cork to Kildare via Wexford, and which will involve the erection of up to 700 towers up to 45 metres tall across the country.
The move comes amid calls from community groups to put the high-voltage lines underground, instead of erecting them in fields and near people's homes.
However, EirGrid said this could triple the costs, but that it was committed to listening to concerns.
"EirGrid is listening to the concerns that members of the public and their representatives have raised in relation to the upgrading of our national electricity network," Grid Link project manager John Lowry said.
"We are extending this third consultation period so that interested parties have plenty of time to have their say in relation to this vital project."
Planning permission is expected to be sought in 2016, and EirGrid plans to submit a final recommended route by the middle of next year. The line will be the subject of a public hearing in An Bord Pleanala.
Grid Link is one of three major upgrades to the national grid planned under the Grid 25 project which will result in as many as 1,300 towers being erected.
Another is the €280m North-South interconnector from Meath to Tyrone, of which 105km will run in the Republic and which will cost €180m. It is expected to go for planning early next year. Some 300 towers will be constructed.
The other is the €240m Grid West project in Mayo and Roscommon which will run for 100km and involve up to 300 pylons. Permission will be sought in 2015.
But campaigners have called for an independent assessment to be carried out to see if the high-voltage lines are needed, and if the lines could be placed underground.
Martin Daly, from the Knockmore against Pylons Committee in Co Mayo, said that up to 800 families would be affected in one area alone, and that communities in Roscommon and Mayo planned to fight the plans.
"We want a review of the existing policy, which we feel is developer driven," he said. "If the line is needed -- and we question if it is -- we want the lines underground.
"We're not against renewables, but against a heavy industry being imposed on a rural landscape. People have not been consulted, it's being imposed on them."
EirGrid said the upgrades were "key projects" designed to increase capacity of the transmission system, and needed to "keep the lights on in the future".
They would allow renewable energy resources to be used across the country, and enable industry to locate in Ireland and particularly in the regions.