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Bord Pleanála allows Shell to construct pipeline in special area of conservation

Marian Harrison - Western People

FIFTEEN years after the Corrib gas well was discovered off the coast of North Mayo, An Bord Pleanála has given the go-ahead for the final section of the controversial pipeline.
It was a case of third time lucky for Shell E&P Ireland, which had devised two previous routes for the
8.3km pipeline to will carry gas from the landfall at Glengad to the terminal at Bellanaboy. The new route will involve the construction of a tunnel under Surwaddacon Bay, which is designated a special area of conservation.
The pipeline was originally intended to run through the village of Rossport, a plan that was knocked on the head after the jailing of the Rossport Five in the summer of 2005.
Shell is expected to commence work later this year once a fore-shore licence and final consents are in place. The terminal at Bellanaboy is almost complete, as can be seen from our photograph (right).
Shell E&P Ireland managing director Terry Nolan said the permission, which includes the green light for a section of pipeline already laid at Glengad, was “good news for Mayo and Ireland”.
“We hope that An Bord Pleanála’s thorough examination of our application and subsequent endorsement of it will allow people to feel their concerns have been fully addressed. We are committed to working positively with the local community throughout the construction period and thereafter,” he said.

The An Bord Pleanála decision came via a 689-page report, which was the product a lengthy oral hearing held in Mayo last year. The planning approval is subject to 58 conditions, including extra security at the landfall site at Glengad, the preparation of an emergency response plan and the establishment of a project monitoring committee to include people from Kil-common parish.

Planning inspector with An Bord Pleanála, Martin Nolan, says the public will not be put at risk by the proposed development and it will have a “remarkably light impact on the pristine environment of the area”.
“There is good clarity and transparency available now on the site...
This clarity provides confidence in the decision recommended and provides confidence that the safety of the public is fully protected,” he said.
The last section of pipeline has been contentious from the beginning . The first route was exempted from planning in 2002 by the then Minister for the Marine Frank Fahy but it had to be abandoned after the Rossport Five stood their ground. A new route was proposed but An Bord Pleanála deemed half of it unacceptable on safety grounds and recommended that a route through Srucwaddacon Bay be explored. However, planners ruled that the on-land route between Glengad and Aughoose was too close to houses.
In the latest submission, the nearest house is 234 metres away from the pipeline – more than three times the original distance.
“The tunnel modifications will have a profound effect on reducing the impacts of the development on the area,” according to Martin Nolan.
He concluded that the Corrib development will provide “sub-stantial benefit” for Kilcommon, Erris, Mayo and the country.
“In this I look at the Kinsale Gas Field which provided the impetus for the large gas industry we now have across the state. Kinsale provided the impetus for electricity power generation to shift from coal/oil/turf to natural gas. Corrib will, I have no doubt, provide impetus for further expansion of the Natural Gas Network in Ireland and I expect it will provide impetus for additional exploration of the Natural Gas Network.”