Protesters: Powerlines a blot on landscape

Beautiful countryside across two unspoilt valleys will be scarred by a controversial electricity transmission line snaking its way through West Cork, it has been claimed.

Two identical 100kV lines already service the area but Eirgrid insists a third line, costing up to €20m, is needed to secure a supply to the rural and primarily coastal region.

Day two of a Bord Pleanála oral hearing in Macroom, Co Cork, yesterday heard claims from objectors that the proposed 40km line was “meaningless” and an unnecessary burden on already-pressed electricity consumers.

John Dolan from action group Communities Before Pylons said the line was proposed during the boom and that there was no demand for it now, five years later.

About 200 double-wooden poles along with 20 steel-angled structures will carry the line from Clashavoon, about six miles north of Macroom, to Dunmanway via Tarelton.

ESB International says similar infrastructure has been in place since the 1930s and 40s, with 6,000km of 110kV lines. The transmission line chosen, the hearing has been told, was deemed to have the least visible impact.

However, Mr Dolan claimed Eirgrid had already made its decision before a public consultation process began several years ago.

He said the project was a blot on the rolling countryside of the unscathed Lee and Bandon valleys and a continuing cost burden on ESB consumers.

Brian Mullins, an Eirgrid project manager, said there were two drivers for the proposed line. One was the security of supply to areas such as Bandon, Dunmanway, and Bantry, and furthermore, the integration of renewable energy in the South-West. He said a support network would boost existing industry as well as growth and development.

However, one woman believes the health and safety of her family appears to be a lesser priority than the protection of whooper swans, bat roosts, mature tress, and a Kerry slug. Observer Eileen O’Neill, a mother of three, says the line will be a blight on the green landscape her family home overlooks in Dunmanway.

“We are going to be looking out from our kitchen and living room at a string of pylons 24m high. We deliberately built out house overlooking an unspoilt valley but now these monstrosities will impact on our view.”

She is among dozens of objectors resisting the provision of the new line.

Ms O’Neill spent the last two days at the hearing. As it continues today, she said: “If there’s no health and safety fears from the third line, why did Eirgrid bring in so many experts to assure everyone the line is secure?

“At the hearing, we have heard concerns about the threats to all forms of nature and wildlife but what about the families; what about our children and generations to come?”

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