Laois farmers es­ca­late their protests against Eir­grid project

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS - DE­CLAN O’BRIEN

LANDOWN­ERS in Laois in­sisted they will not back down in their in­creas­ingly bit­ter dis­pute with Eir­grid over the con­struc­tion of a ma­jor elec­tric­ity sub­sta­tion near the vil­lage of Strad­bally.

The long-run­ning dis­pute, in­volv­ing a block­ade of the pro­posed sub­sta­tion site at Coolnabacca by a lo­cal protest group, es­ca­lated last week when lo­cal landown­ers vowed to block ESB from ac­cess­ing ma­jor pow­er­lines in the area.

The move fol­lows failed talks be­tween Eir­grid man­age­ment and the Ra­theniska Tima­hoe Spink (RTS) Sub­sta­tion Ac­tion Group.

“We are now es­ca­lat­ing our cam­paign and we will now not only be re­fus­ing any ac­cess for Eir­grid and ESB to the site, but also to the 400kv and 110kv power lines al­ready in our area,” RTS stated.

“We have re­ceived huge sup­port from landown­ers with these power lines. We will not let Eir­grid or ESB in and we have stated to them very clearly that this project is dead. Eir­grid had ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to progress a project which sat­is­fies the iden­ti­fied need but have failed to do so.”

RTS claim that the pro­posed sub­sta­tion is sited above a ma­jor aquifer, and poses a threat to wa­ter sup­plies of thou­sands of fam­i­lies in Laois.

How­ever, Eir­grid in­sisted that the project had been “rig­or­ously scru­ti­nised through a lengthy plan­ning process”.

“We are eager to move to the con­struc­tion phase of this key piece of lo­cal in­fra­struc­ture that will un­der­pin eco­nomic growth for the mid­lands and are com­mit­ted to work­ing with the lo­cal com­mu­nity and landown­ers to re­solve any is­sues in re­la­tion to the works,” Eir­grid stated.

Eir­grid said the pres­ence of layer of “stiff clay sub­soil” above the aquifer “will pre­vent any pos­si­ble con­tam­i­na­tion” of the wa­ter sup­ply. How­ever, RTS re­jected this as­ser­tion and pointed out that Eir­grid had al­ready pro­ceeded with works at the Coolnabacca site with­out plan­ning per­mis­sion.

ESB said it was in­vest­ing €110m to up­grade the elec­tric­ity sup­ply in coun­ties Laois, Kilkenny, Car­low and Kil­dare.

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