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Bury the Powerlines not the People
roscommon | environment | feature Wednesday December 14, 2005 01:07 by Terry - 1 of IMC room101ucg at yahoo dot co dot uk
In September I travelled to Boyle, Roscommon, to visit a community group which is opposing a 35 mile, 220 kv, 110 feet, ESB pylon line, in favour of an alternative which would put the powerlines underground. Hence the campaign slogan ‘Bury the Powerlines not the People’.
As Martina Roddy relates: “Well let’s see this was our fifth letter from the ESB, and three of them, including the one of the 14th of June, threatened us with the High Court if we didn’t grant access on the 21st of June, so basically through our solicitor we were informed that there was ESB personnel coming to our house to seek access. So the people of the group and friends and neighbours gathered at the house, and the ESB came to the door, asked for Michael, and were refused access. As I say we were threatened with a high court injunction on that day, and we refused them access and we will continue to refuse.”
The following article consists of two parts; an interview with Frank, community activist and organic farmer, and parts of a timeline presentation made by Martina Roddy for the 10th Grassroots Gathering.
So how did the campaign get started?
The whole thing started about five years ago, the first we heard was when we saw a big ad in the back of the local paper, the Roscommon Herald, saying that the ESB intended to bring a powerline from Carrick-on-Shannon to a place down in Sligo called Shrananagh and the landowners that were directly affected were written to, but everybody else was ignored.
A group was set up, a committee was formed, you had several groups along the line, you see it’s a 35 mile line, and therefore you wouldn’t know people from one end of it, and so different groups formed along the line.
How many objections were made in the Planning Process?
I’d say on the whole line maybe 10 to 12,000. They were basically all ignored. We asked a serious amount of questions to the County Manager, to the ESB. We asked what were the alternative routes. Those letters, were, to this day, never answered.
What are your health concerns with this development?
Most people are really worried about the health implications. More and more research has shown that living close to powerlines, or under them, or near them, is bad for your health to put it mildly.
How big, how high and how wide are these pylons and this pylon line to be?
The entire line will have about 200 pylons, they will range in height from 100 to 130 feet. They are fairly big structures. They are a new type of design called lattice towers. I believe they are the first of their type in the country.
How does that compare to other pylons?
They will be one of the biggest groups of pylons in the country.
They call this a ‘sterile corridor’, what does that mean in practise?
There is a strip of land, 30 metres each side of the line, which comes to about 200 feet in width in total, and that’s the entire line. It is called a ‘sterile corridor’ as if you sign the ‘deed of easement’ you are actually signing away your rights to that property to the ESB, that strip of ground they will have control of, for ever.
Adrian Leddy, the IFA (Irish Farmers Association) Regional Development Officer, commented on your campaign to the effect that “we don’t live in the Dark Ages”, the IFA also sent out letters claiming they had negotiated a “satisfactory outcome” to this dispute.
From day one every time we had a meeting, the IFA would have one contradicting what we had said. The IFA claim to represent farmers well if they do why didn’t they come to us on day one and say well what do you think of this.
This is the sort of stuff we have had to put up with for five years they have bullied and threatened people unbelievably.
Proposed Project: 220kv ESB Power line going from Carrick on Shannon (Co Leitrim) to Sooey in Co Sligo on 215 pylon towers with an average height of 110ft.
This project was started by ESB approx. 15 yrs ago when they made various attempts to go through other areas but much local opposition caused them to re-route the line in our direction in 1999-2000, where there is much afforestation and many elderly or single people living.
Timetable of events to date:
May 2000: landowners first informed of proposal and given maps of route of lines. No consultation with landowners or locals before maps drawn up.
Sept 2000: meeting between ESB officials and our local group, our feelings about plan clearly spelt out.
Oct 2001: Planning permission granted by the 3 Co Cos Roscommon, Sligo and Leitrim.
Oct 2002: An Bord Plenala upheld Co Councils permission and ignored advise of Mr. Wall their inspector who deemed the EIS to be 70% inaccurate and advised permission should be refused.
June 2003: Complaint and Petition sent to Europe based on inadequate Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and the ESBs failure to comply with many EU Directives like consultation with the locals involved. Nothing positive heard back, EU pointed out that EIS was done and the fact it was 70% inadequate appeared irrelevant. Matter still ongoing.
Nov 2003: first wayleaves issued to landowners who were notified of ESBs ‘intention to start work immediately but no later than Jan 04’.
March / April 2004: work began in Coillte lands and on farmers lands where permission to enter lands was given. IFA and ESBs reps began visiting landowners to gain either verbal/written consent to access lands. Many older farmers/single people particularly in Sligo section were talked around and gave in. IFA worked out ‘great deal’ for all landowners €11,250 per pylon and €11.50 per metre of line crossing over lands.
Oct 2004: we first received notification of thir intention to enter our lands, workers never showed up on date named by ESB after our solicitor pointed out strongly our opposition to plan.
Between Oct 2004 – June 2005 we received 5 letters from ESBs lawyer stating their intention to ‘enter our lands as a matter of urgency’ and 3 letters contained High Court Injunction threats which would take place ‘without further notice’ if we made any attempt to stop ESB personnel entering our private lands.
2nd Feb/1st June and 21st June 2005: We were visited by 2 ESB reps. On 21st June we refused access outright and a crowd of 50 –60 gathered outside our home to support our opposition to pylons. 2 ESB reps called to our door on June 21st, 2 ESB jeeps with approx. 8 workers parked about 70m down the rd and a digger was parked about a 1/2 mile away from house. 2 Gardai also waited outside our front gate at invitation of ESB.
July 4th : anti- pylon protest outside ESB premises in Sligo town about 50 attended. Much radio and newspaper coverage.
July 25th 2005 : National protest with approx. 150 people outside ESB HQ on Lower Fitzwilliam Street in Dublin. INN and Irish Times coverage as well as local stations and newspapers.
August 22nd 2005: Local protest outside ESB premises in Carrick on Shannon again much interest by local media.