A bid to overturn An Bord Pleanála’s planning permission to EirGrid for the construction of a 138km-long, north-south interconnector were thrown out in the High Court yesterday by Mr Justice Max Barrett.
The interconnector project comprises a 400kV overhead line circuit linking an existing substation in Woodland, Co Meath, with a planned substation in Turleenan, Co Tyrone.
It is planned to provide a second high-capacity all-Ireland electricity interconnector, the existing one being a 275kV double circuit overhead line between Co Louth and Co Armagh.
Judge Barrett said few, if any of us, would welcome the news that a great line of electricity pylons and linking wires was due to be erected on or across property that we chanced to own or otherwise enjoyed.
He said the applicants, North East Pylon Pressure Campaign Limited and Ms Maura Sheehy, living in a beautiful part of Ireland and enjoying some of the best of the Irish countryside, understandably object to the interconnector being built upon their properties, by their homes or across their townlands.
“But when it comes to the decision of An Bord Pleanála to grant approval to EirGrid the court is coerced as a matter of law into concluding that there is no lawful basis that would justify it granting any of the reliefs the applicants seek,” the judge said.
In a 220-page reserved judgment, he said the application to quash the board’s decision to grant approval, was, among other legal challenges to the scheme, “respectfully refused by the court”. He said the thrust of his judgment was such that the issue of jus tertii (the pleading by one of the rights of another) was not of the significance that it might otherwise have been.
“But while the applicants have standing to bring the proceedings… the court does not see that either of the applicants, neither of them being landowners, has the requisite standing to make such claims as were made in their pleadings and submissions concerning allegedly affected landowners,” the judge said.
He said the applicants sought to quash the board’s decision to approve the infrastructure linking the electricity networks in the North and Republic on grounds it was contrary to and in breach of EU regulations and directives and lacked proper environmental impact assessments, as well as breaching the European Convention of Human Rights.
The applicants had also objected on grounds that An Bord Pleanála was not lawfully designated as a competent authority to hear the appeal against approval.
Judge Barrett said the board enjoyed a presumption of validity and it was a significant feature of the case brought by the applicants that no leave had been granted to challenge the accuracy of any matter in the 600-page report of the board’s inspector, who heard the appeal over 35 days and who had been addressed by 204 people.
“Regrettably but almost certainly necessarily, and not without regard for individual rights but concomitant with that concern for the overall public good which central government invariably and properly brings to the formulation of national policy and legislation, individual landowner consent is neither a prerequisite to nor necessary component of a successful development consent application whether by virtue of primary or secondary legislation,” the judge ruled.
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