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Western People (Ireland): Shell built illegal road for Corrib gas project

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

THE Corrib gas project took yet another of its bizarre twists at the weekend when it emerged that An Bord Pleanála had mistakenly issued an order against Shell E&P Ireland on Thursday evening.

The planning appeals board had ruled that a beach valve station already installed on the infamous gas pipeline was not an exempt development and was subject to normal planning guidelines.

However, twenty- four hours after the story had been reported in the national media, An Bord Pleanála retracted its original ruling, claiming it had erroneously inserted the word ‘not’ in its written verdict. The Board said it had meant to state that the beach valve was exempt from planning permission.

However, the Board has continued to stand over its claim that Shell has illegally constructed a private road from the foreshore at Sruwaddacon Bay, where the pipeline comes ashore, to the existing county road. The road has been built without planning permission through a priority habitat protected under an EU directive on special areas of conservation. The Board’s decision means that Shell will either have to tear up the 1km road or apply to Mayo County Council for retention permission.

Despite the latest setback, the company remained upbeat at the weekend with External Affairs Manager, John Egan, claiming that the latest ruling was anything but a fatal blow to the project.

“This information has suffered from misinformation before. I welcome the fact that An Bord Pleanála have admitted their mistake so quickly.”

The appeal to An Bord Pleanála had been brought by the environmental organisation, An Taisce, which raised 14 queries in relation to a ruling by Mayo County Council last September that certain aspects of the Corrib project were exempt from planning permission.

The Board ruled in favour of the Council on ten issues while another two were found to be irrelevant. However, the two remaing queries – relating to the widening of an access gate and the construction of a link road – were deemed to be subject of normal planning guidelines. In other words, Shell should have obtained permission for these developments before it began to constructed them.

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