Energy giant Shell has been told to re-route part of the controversial Corrib gas pipeline after planners today ruled it posed a safety risk.
An Bord Pleanala found more than half of a 9km onshore stretch, carrying raw gas over bogland in north Mayo, must be altered because of the dangers to nearby homes.
It ruled that information supplied by the Corrib Gas Partners was not a complete, transparent or adequate demonstration that the high pressure pipeline does not pose an unacceptable risk to the public.
Developers have been given three months to plan another route – up the Sruwaddacon bay further away from Rossport village – including detailed information on route, design and safety.
Opponents claimed the board’s decision vindicated the stand taken by a number of groups over the last decade.
John Monaghan, Pobail Cill Chomain spokesman, said planners had eventually stepped in after ten years fighting.
“It is clear that the project as proposed does not meet basic health and safety requirements, as we have known all along,” he said.
“It’s long overdue recognition of the concerns but it’s worth noting that this is the first time the pipeline part of the project has been assessed by the planning process, and it has failed that test.
“This should have been done at the outset of the Corrib development a decade ago, and the conflict around it would have been entirely avoided.”
Homes near the 5.6km stretch of pipeline beside Rossport village are just 150m to 300m away.
Best practice suggests the high pressure pipes should be at least 300m away from homes.
Planners also objected to the use of bogland where HGVs and construction vehicles would be travelling narrow country roads to prepare for laying the pipe.
They suggested the pipe should be taken through the middle of the bay to the terminal near Bellanaboy.
Shell to Sea spokeswoman Maura Harrington said: “What An Bord Pleanala have really shown today is that the Corrib Gas pipeline is not safe to be routed through our community, or indeed any residential area.
“Shell have consistently shown their inability and unwillingness to make this project safe – what it needs is a total overhaul, with real consideration given to the genuine problems with the project raised by campaigners.”
In a four-page letter to Shell and the Corrib Gas Partners, An Bord Pleanala said it would provisionally support the project if the developers make the necessary alterations.
The company said it will consider An Bord Pleanala’s call for further information and modifications to the route.
“The Corrib Gas Partners remain firmly of the view that the pipeline, as designed, is safe and meets all international standards and industry best practice,” Shell said.
The original pipeline route had not been subject to planning permission.
The route rejected by An Bord Pleanala was drawn up by environmental firm RPS Consulting after government mediator Peter Cassells attempted to broker a deal.
The long-running dispute has seen daily protests in the Rossport, Glengad and Bellanaboy areas, a multi-million euro garda overtime bill and five local men jailed for 94 days for contempt of court.
Shell has until February next year to come back with a revised pipeline route through Sruwaddacon bay.