Final part of Corrib pipeline approved with conditions

PLANNING chiefs have attached strict conditions to the go-ahead for the final part of the controversial Corrib gas pipeline, which is expected to eventually bring ashore up to 60% of Ireland’s natural gas needs.

An Bord Pleanála’s approval for the Mayo project includes 58 conditions in areas of safety, protection of the environment and community, as well as funds for local development.

Energy giant and project leader Shell said the board’s backing for the redesigned underwater gas pipeline would help ease local concerns over the project.

The agreed revised route will see an undersea tunnel travelling through the picturesque Sruwaddacon Bay in north Mayo, carrying a 5km stretch of the pipeline.

This will link with the pipeline landfall at Glengad, which will pump gas to the €1 billion Bellanaboy gas terminal.

Planning chiefs said the revised project “would not be prejudicial to public health or public safety, [and] would help safeguard the energy security of the state and would not affect the local environment”.

The Corrib project has been surrounded by controversy ever since 1996, the year the gas field was discovered off the Mayo coast.

But numerous criteria have now been set for the rerouted pipeline, including measures to protect the scenic area and the safety of the community.

An external inspector must check the pipe’s pressure and ground movements must be measured during building.

Shell must give the Department of Energy an annual pipeline report and not begin construction until a local emergency response plan is drafted.

The energy company must also pay Mayo County Council for costs affecting local traffic and land works.

The council itself will also be given environment reports on possible surface water issues, dust, as well as noise and vibration disturbances.

Community and council representatives will also form a project monitoring committee, while a complaints register will also be established at Belmullet.

The area’s water wells must also be checked during and after construction, to protect local drinking sources.

An annual community investment fund of €1.7m will also be paid for by Shell, amounting to €8.5m over the life of project.

Other conditions include keeping access open to Glengad beach during construction, as well as making sure that only essential work is carried out between the hours of 8pm and 7am, to minimise noise at night.

Planning chiefs say the new design provides “confidence that the safety of the public is fully protected and that the public will not be put at risk” and that the project will boost the gas industry here.

While Shell Ireland yesterday welcomed the decision, opponents of the project said legal moves could be taken to reverse the board’s decision.

John Monaghan with Pobal Chill Chomáin said: “We will have to study this lengthy decision in detail but are not ruling out taking a legal route to oppose it.”

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