From Castlebar - County Mayo -

Local Papers Commentary
Bellanaboy Gas Refused - 07 May 2003
By The Jaundiced Eye
11, May 2003 - 13:41

The local papers line up one apparently supporting An Bord Pleanala and two more or less against. The Mayo News adopts an approach that is highly critical of Mayo County Council. The Connaught on the other hand lets fly at the planning appeals board for its ‘disastrous decision’ or ‘unbelievable decision’ depending on where you read in the page one comment by Tom Gillespie, editor of the Connaught Telegraph. The Western takes a more neutral line. All the papers have pages of comment about this major decision with interviews and comments from all the main players in the long running appeal against the Mayo County Council decision to grant planning permission to Enterprise Energy Ireland. Lots of old ground is trawled over again with plenty of political recriminations particularly between Michael Ring and Frank Fahey who was the minister of the day. The Connaught reports again the allegations of interference by Minister Fahey in the process. The Mayo News in outlining the inspectors report writes "It is difficult to countenance how a group of law-abiding citizens in a picturesque village in North Mayo could be let down so badly by their own local authority but that is clearly the verdict of Mr. Moore." All papers quote large chunks from the inspector’s report.

Apart from the (now defunct?) proposal to sling Castlebar’s broadband fibre optic cable along the gas pipeline there are a few points worth making about this big decision. First it is interesting to note that the final decision of the board effectively overrules most of their inspector’s objections. In particular they overrule the visual aspects objection and they cite the fact that the Health and Safety Authority did not recommend against planning permission in respect of the Seveso Directive - in defence of their decision to reject this reason for refusal from the inspector. The sole objection that survived from the inspector’s report warranting refusal of planning permission was the peat disposal problem. The proposed system for holding the 2m depth of peat which must be removed from the site was seen as unsatisfactory and as posing a safety hazard to road users on the R314. Enterprise Energy Ireland proposed to store some 650,000 m3 of peat and bund it off in a large repository. They also cite the risk of pollution from this should a ‘bog burst’ occur. Of course bog bursts already occur regularly in this area. One on the Bangor road a few years back required something like 30 lorry loads of peat, rock sand and gravel to be removed before the road could reopen. The same rainfall event washed away barns and flooded houses not too far from Bellanaboy.

We were taken by the trenchant point made by Kevin Moore making the point that this was not balanced development because the proposal was simply a method for piping gas to the rest of Ireland – effectively anywhere but Mayo. Frank Fahey’s suggestion that the terminal was going to bring all sorts of benefits for Mayo rings very hollow. Gas might arrive in his constituency alright in Galway but nowhere in Mayo was going to benefit – all pleas for active spurs from the pipeline into Ballina, Castlebar and even Sligo fell on deaf ears – not economical. The idea of turning fossil fuel gas into electricity in a remote part of Mayo to attract industry also rings hollow. In the first place turning gas into electricity is highly inefficient and then the transmission of electricity over long distances wastes even more of the original energy content – perhaps half is lost along the line. It is much more greenhouse gas friendly to use the gas directly in your cooker or at worst a combined heat and power system. Of course Mayo County Council turned down permission for enlargement of the big wind farm at Bellacorick – where you can see landscape devastation on a scale of thousands of hectares where many metres of peat bog has been drained and removed.

The other point is the idea that this north Mayo area is somehow a pristine environment. It is not. This was an intensive experimental area since the 1970s with the peat dug up and drained for trees and fertiliser spreading. The stories about burial sites for experimental animals – rabbits, etc. are legion for this area. Even the area of peat that was to be excavated is believed to be a burial site for God knows what. Then of course the sheep that overgrazed and destabilised the hillsides especially all up the eastern side of Carrowmore Lake – bare peat which has been eroded into the lake for decade – and this lake supplies Belmullet’s water. Pristine it ain’t.

Why not read the inspectors report and the Bord’s decision yourself – both are available at

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