THE HISTORY OF THE EVENTS RELATING TO THE
PROPOSED AGHADA-RAFFEEN POWERLINE
An ESB engineer called to property owners and informed them of the ESB's intention to build the proposed 220,000 Volt line. Most importantly he stated the chosen route and the exact location of the pylons. The fact that the later Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) chose this same route from a study of four possible routes shows clearly that the EIS was not independent but rather was biased from the outset.
Individuals responded, objecting strenuously, primarily due to the existing high density of powerlines in the area.
Word leaked that the ESB intended to apply for planning permission. Aghada Community Council called a meeting to discuss the ESB's plans. The ESB management were invited but in spite of agreeing to attend they did not turn up. A week later the ESB rushed ahead with a planning application despite promises that the plans would first be discussed with the people and communities affected. (planning application ref. no. S96/2333)
Due to the arrogant and dismissive attitude of the ESB and the obvious availability of a much shorter underharbour option which had not been addressed by the ESB, the Cork Harbour Anti Pylon Community Group - CHAPCG- was formed.
The ESB held an information 'Road Show' to tell people what they planned; - No discussions were allowed on anything but what the ESB planned to do.
CHAPCG organised meetings, encouraged and managed objections, lobbied councillors and TD's, publicised the campaign and hired Mr. John Royds as a consultant.
A key meeting was held with all East Cork councillors and farmers representatives. All the councillors gave their full support to the campaign and endorsed the fact that the proposed 23 kilometre overland line should be replaced by a much shorter 4 kilometre underharbour cable.
The Cork IFA farmers group and the CHAPCG always adopted a professional pro-development stance by the manner in which we organised and demonstrated and by recommending the following;
a. Shorter underharbour route as this would not effect tourism, residential, amenity, farming or other future developments.
b. Gas fired generating station in Ringaskiddy and
c. Doubling up existing 110 KVA line.
TD;s, MEP's, The Taoiseach (Mr. John Bruton) and Ministers were lobbied continuously. The County Manager (Mr. Noel Dillon-since retired) and the Planning Officer (Mr. Brendan Kelliher) were met on a number of occasions and given our arguments and research.
County Council meetings were both attended and picketed throughout the Autumn of 1996. The planning decision was postponed several times as a result. In October 1996 the County Manager asked the ESB to provide a report giving details and costings for an underharbour cable.
A protest rally was held outside the Aghada Power Station in December 1996. The ESB commissioned, Pirelli report on an underharbour electricity cable was sent to the County Council. Pirelli costed the underharbour cable at approx. £20m and the ESB unfairly added a further £8m - which they have always refused to explain.
Note 1. The report was heavily changed by the ESB before presentation including material erased and written over and additional pages inserted.
Note 2. The cost according to the ESB of the overland line was £9m. This cost did not however include compensation to farmers, developers and other property holders. Such compensation would be significant as the overland line would sterilise a total of 1000 acres.
MID DECEMBER 1996
Representatives of the Anti Pylon group sought and got a meeting with Mr. Noel Dillon, the County Manager. He told us that he had asked the ESB to submit a planning application for the underharbour cable but that they had bluntly refused.
The County Manager and a number of councillors travelled to Dublin to meet Minister Alan Dukes and ask him for EU funding towards the cost of the underharbour cable. He refused.
More intensive lobbying continued.
FEBRUARY 10th 1997
Closed meeting of Cork County Council; - the vast majority of councillors opposed the ESB's plans for overland pylons given the ideal opportunity to meet the electricity demand on the Western side of the Harbour, through a short underharbour cable.
FEBRUARY 24th 1997
Major protest by farmers, the CHAPCG and others to County Hall and Council meeting.
In the late afternoon of the same day the County Manager granted planning permission to the ESB. He said that the basis for his decision was the much greater cost of the underharbour cable.
CHAPCG had a meeting with Mr Noel Dillion. He said that:-
1. The threat of Court action by the ESB regarding the £20m difference between the overland and underharbour options.
2. The ESB's threat that job opportunities would be lost unless permission for the overland pylons was given.
were his reasons for granting the planning permission. He said that he favoured the submarine cable and would submit a full and detailed statement to An Bord Pleanala, who unlike the Council could not be taken to court for refusing the planning. Note;- Mr Dillon never submitted this report to An Bord Pleanala.
From February 24th 1997 we had one month to send in our objections to An Bord Pleanala. A total of 9 objections were submitted, Those of CHAPCG and the farmer's group were by far the most detailed.
The Cork IFA farmers took a High Court case to force An Bord Pleanala to have a public oral hearing. Important Notes;- The Bord Pleanala senior council stated in open court that a, the costs of the overland and underharbour options would not be a factor in the Bord Pleanala deliberations and b, an oral hearing could be allowed. However the ESB's senior counsal said that the
Bord could not give an oral hearing on this planning as they had already told the ESB it was not needed!!
Bord Pleanala granted planning permission to the ESB. In spite of assurances given in the high court the Bord Pleanala inspector put special emphasis on the cost differance between the underharbour and the overland options. His decision was primarily based on a cost difference which in reality did not exist.
Remember - the Pirelli report was doctored by the ESB who added £8-9m to the underharbour cable option and the property compensation on the overland line was ignored. The Bord Pleanala decision was backward, incompetent and disgraceful.
All the groups against the overland line fought on with renewed commitment and determination.
Protests including a cavalcade of tractors and cars to Cork City and the ESB headquarters in Wilton ,were held.
CARA - The Cork Anti Pylon Representative Association was formed as an umbrella group to intensify the campaign to have the line placed under Cork Harbour. Mr. Willie Cunningham was appointed Chairman.
CARA met the Minister for Public Enterprise, Mary O'Rourke. We were supported at the meeting by councillors, TD's, the Chamber's of Commerce and others.
Note;- Mary O'Rourke singularly stands out for having done nothing either at that time or at any time since.
Note 2;- From the outset of this campaign we have had the full support of every business organisation, professional and voluntary body in the Greater Cork area as well as the entire Cork Community. We have also had the support of TD's, councillors, senators and MEP's.
During this period RTE Prime Time did a programme on the controversy.
Cork County councillors voted unanimously in support of our camgaign.
CARA lobbied for and finally met the Chief Executive and senior managers of the ESB in Wilton ,Cork.
CARA with the support of local TD's got the ESB in front of the Dail Public Accounts ,Committee.
CARA met the Taoiseach, Mr Bertie Ahern, in Cork.
The ESB served legal notices on each property holder on the overland route of their intention to enter lands and begin construction
On February 24th CARA organised a major tractor, car and van cavalcade to Wilton and returned the legal notices which were accepted by the ESB manager in Wilton, Cork.
ECO activists arrived in Cork to support the Campaign.
Cork County Council employed Mr. Jim Coleshill of Dispute Resolutions to intervene between the ESB and CARA.
The ESB wrote to each property holder informing us of their plans and that we could contact their solicitors.
Discussions were held with Mr. Coleshill of Dispute Resolutions Ltd. who suggested that international consultants with the relevant expertise in overland and underwater power transmission be employed to resolve the matter. He strongly recommended Ewbank Preece O'Heocha, as they had the global scale and the calibre and spread of expertise required . However the ESB would not agree to this group. Finally Vattenfal, a Swedish Company were appointed. However the ESB stated that they would not be bound by their findings.
CARA made submissions, lasting a full day to the Vattenfal consultants and Mr. Coleshill. Our presentations included experts from Ireland and overseas who travelled to present their reports. We conclusively proved that the underharbour option was more cost effective than the overland line. We also proved that it was technically feasible, far better regarding health and the environment and a proper modern solution to the energy transmission needs of Cork Harbour.
Furthermore we proved conclusively that Ringaskiddy could and should have a modern Combined Heat and Power electricity Generating Station.
Our presentation was so conclusive that Mr. Coleshill tried at the end of the day to change the goal posts on the purpose and outcome of his mediation.
The Vattenfal report, later sent to Cork County Council was so unprofessional that even the ESB have since ignored it entirely.
ESB endeavour to begin work on the pylons but are prevented by the Eco activists and members of CARA.
MARCH 22nd 1999
Cork County Council members vote 31 to 4 in favour of a motion by councillor John Mulvihill to rescind the planning permission, given two years earlier to the ESB. Councillor Mulvihill and the Council used a section of the 1963 act which enables the Council to overturn an earlier planning permission if there has been a significant change of circumstances. These were ;-
a. The health risks from heavy duty powerlines was now proven by Professor Henshaw of Bristol University and his team of researchers.
b. The increased property valuations over the two previous years now made the underharbour option cheaper.
c. The environmental and visual damage of 50 metre high pylons and wires was now regarded as seriously detrimental to the proper future development of the Harbour area.
d. The underharbour option was now proven to be economically viable, environmentally sound and technically feasible.
The ESB lodged an objection with Bord Pleanala against the rescinding of planning by Cork County Council. Later the ESB also stated their intention to take Cork County Council to the High Court on the same matter.
EARLY SUMMER 1999
Co-ordinated by our solicitor Mr. Charles Daly we prepared and forwarded a robust defence of our position and case to An Bord Pleanala.
SUMMER AND AUTUMN 1999
CARA prepared a detailed and extensive case for the impending High Court action by the ESB ,as did Cork County Council. Senior Councel were employed and briefed regularly. Again many meetings were held and a solid case was prepared.
JANUARY 25TH TO FEBRUARY 3RD
High Court Case. ESB versus Cork County Council and CARA. The ESB were seeking to revoke the right of the councillors to overturn the planning permission.
JUNE 28TH 2000
Judge Finnegan on a point of law ruled in favour of the ESB.
CARA and its supporters are more committed than ever to fight the ESB and force the Government to have this line put under the harbour, where it should have gone originally.