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Oral hearing on Corrib gas pipeline could be reopened

The Irish Times – Monday, December 13, 2010


AN BORD Pleanála has said it is considering a request from a north Mayo community group to reopen the oral hearing into the Corrib gas pipeline.

The request was sent to the board late this week by community group Pobal Chill Chomáin, which is opposed to the new pipeline route on health, safety and environmental grounds.

The group’s spokesman John Monaghan said the request had been made because of what he claims to be serious irregularities in further information supplied by the lead developer, Shell EP Ireland (SEPIL), to the Department of the Environment for a foreshore licence application on October 26th.

The information for the foreshore application for a new pipeline route up Sruwaddacon estuary was submitted more than three weeks after the closure of An Bord Pleanála’s resumed oral hearing into the pipeline application – but differs significantly in some important details, Mr Monaghan said.

“This indicates that SEPIL have identified weaknesses in their own application that – worryingly – did not give rise to concerns from the authorities, including An Bord Pleanála,” his community group said.

“Much of the information provided recently was withheld from the planning hearings by both the Department of Energy and SEPIL, but is being presented as forming part of the planning process,” the group said.

“Clear references are made to the Health and Safety Authority (whose input was absent from the planning hearings) and to fundamental issues such as public safety, housing proximity and land-use planning,” the group said in its letter to the board.

“We are also drawing the board’s attention to the great disparity between SEPIL’s assertions in the new information given to the Department of the Environment, and their evidence on the very same issues given at the planning hearings in 2009 and 2010,” the group said.

It said it believed there was a real danger the board’s deliberations would “result in a project that has escaped full and proper scrutiny” unless the oral hearing was reopened.

An Bord Pleanála said it would consider the matter but could make no further comment at present.

It had been due to make a final ruling on the pipeline by the end of this year, along with a decision on compulsory acquisition orders for land.

Shell EP Ireland has confirmed that the further information was forwarded to the Department of the Environment’s foreshore section.

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