"The Government have clearly sent the message to Shell, ‘you can do whatever you want’. Fortunately due to protest, the refinery remains unconnected to the gas field. If, as Shell planned, gas had been flowing by now, we would potentially all be dealing with a gas leak and explosion.”
An Bord Pleanala has ruled that several key aspects of shore work on the Corrib gas project are unauthorised.
Shell E&P Ireland must dismantle the works, including a construction road and a beach valve facility, or apply for planning permission. The beach valve is critical to new safety recommendations relating to limiting pressure in the pipeline, issued by Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey.
The decision overrules Mayo County Council’s ruling that the works were not subject to planning permission. It represents a “major setback” for the project, according to An Taisce and the Shell to Sea campaign.
Shell E&P Ireland said the works were “minor”, and associated with the landfall where the pipeline from the Corrib gas field comes ashore in north Mayo. “No construction activity has occurred on this part of the project since the summer of 2005,” the company said yesterday. It said it would review the decision and “consider its implications”.
The company is currently engaged in mediation with the five men jailed last year over their opposition to the onshore pipeline.
The appeals board decision, issued yesterday, arose after 14 questions were submitted by An Taisce to Mayo County Council under section five of the Planning and Development Act 2000 over concerns about the authorisation of certain developments. The questions related to erecting a compound and widening an entrance to a public road at Rossport south; laying a waste pipe from Glengad to the gas terminal site at Bellanaboy; erecting another construction compound at Bellagelly south; laying a road from there to Sruwadaccon Bay; and laying a road from the foreshore at Glengad to a county road.
Mayo County Council held that all of the works - which have already been carried out - were authorised. An Taisce appealed this. The appeals board found that nine of the works were authorised, three were not and two of the queries weren’t relevant. The board has found that widening the entrance to the landfall at Glengad, constructing a road linking the county road to the pipeline landfall on the foreshore, and constructing a valve station on the gas pipeline are subject to planning permission.
“None of the three have received such approval. In the case of the valve station, it is not exempted “subject to the proviso that the said permanent emergency access is not a permanent road”.
The appeals board noted that the county road-landfall link travels through a priority habitat, designated under the European Habitats Directive, and is a Nature 2000 Special Area of Conservation.
Ian Lumley of An Taisce said it also believed that the road required an environmental impact assessment under EU law.
“This ruling raises the more serious concern,” he said. “It means that a major element of the Corrib gas development in Co Mayo is unauthorised, and is proceeding without planning permission.”