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Irish Independent: Shell accused of failing to lodge 20m planning bond

Mar 08, 2006
Ann O'Loughlin
SHELL has failed to adhere to a planning condition requiring it to lodge a 20m security for the costs of the future restoration of the site of the gas terminal connected to the development of the Corrib gas field in Co Mayo, it was claimed in the High Court yesterday.
A letter by Shell E and P Ireland of December 10, 2004 that its parent company Shell Overseas Holdings Ltd will provide such a security “in due course” and subject to the approval of the Board of Shell Overseas does not actually constitute a legally enforceable security, Dr Michael Forde SC, for photographer and environmentalist Peter Sweetman, argued.
There was no indication from Shell E and P that the board of its parent company had met since December 2004 to approve any such security, he added. Nor was there any indication in documents before the court if and when such approval would be forthcoming.
The situation is equivalent to telling a bank manager that Daddy will guarantee a loan and will come down “tomorrow” for that purpose but no signature being provided, he contended. The fact that Mayo County Council has agreed to this arrangement with Shell E and P does not mean that the required security is in place, counsel added. As things stood now, the Council could find itself forced, in 20 years time when activity at the gas terminal site near Balinaboy Bridge in Co Mayo had ceased, to take legal proceedings against Shell in an effort to have the site restored to its original condition, Dr Forde said.
Rejecting those claims, Mr Maurice Collins SC, for Shell E and P, argued his client's letter of December 10th 2004 does constitute a security which conforms with the planning conditions for the terminal.
Planning condition no. 37 provided that Shell E and P and Mayo County Council should agree on the terms of security for the reinstatement of the gas terminal site – either by cash deposit, insurance company bond or “other form” of security – and that was what had happened, he said. It did not matter that there were “formalities yet to be attended to” in relation to the security, Mr Collins added.
The Council had raised no difficulties about that, there was “a technical lacuna” to be filled which would be done in due course and “that was that”. Shell's position is that it fully intends to “dot the i's and cross the t's” and there was no question but that will be done, Mr Collins added. There was no evidence the Council had concerns about the form of security and in fact the evidence was “the other way”.
There was no basis for the court to intervene in the matter and no basis for the proceedings by Mr Sweetman aimed at securing orders requiring Shell E and P Ireland to comply with condition 37, he said.
The fact was that no works were being undertaken at the site since last July because of local opposition to works linked to the gas terminal development, Mr Collins added. The hearing of Mr Sweetman's application concluded yesterday afternoon and Mr Justice Thomas Smyth will give judgment on Tuesday March 14.

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