FIVE new routes have been identified by Shell as potential corridors for bringing the controversial Corrib gas inshore to the proposed refinery at Bellanaboy, according to the company’s Communications Officer in Mayo, Mr Christy Loftus.
It is expected that it is these corridors which will be examined in the preliminary consultations requested last week by Shell E&P Ireland with An Bord Pleanála, under the new Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act.
The Act, which came into force a fortnight ago, was instituted to speed up planning approval for major projects. A spokesman for An Bord Pleanála, Mr Diarmuid Collins confirmed to The Mayo News that Shell had made a request last Thursday for ‘pre-application consultations’.
“The new Act and Regulations gives us information on what kind of requirements are necessary for the making and consideration of an application, for example the EIS [Environmental Impact Statement], the public consultation process and other implicit variables,” explained Mr Collins, adding that it was too early to comment on what this specific process would involve.
Shell further confirmed that their consultant, Rural Planning Services (RPS), has requested preliminary discussions with An Bord Pleanála, as part of the consultation process for determining a new pipeline route.
“The purpose of the meeting is to seek clarification from An Bord Pleanála on the procedures that have to be followed before any application is lodged in connection with a new modified route,” said Mr Loftus.
Mr Loftus emphasised that the company was also in preliminary discussions with other relevant agencies and the local community regarding the modified route.
“I can say for a fact that no preferred route has been identified yet and that we are looking at five corridors,” said Mr Loftus. He stated he did not know whose lands these proposed routes would traverse.
While Shell to Sea spokesman Dr Mark Garavan welcomed the significance of the fact that the new route required planning permission, he stressed that the cumulative effect of the project must be addressed, and not one aspect of it.
“This reveals, yet again, the incredibly truncated nature of project splitting, which should not be an aspect of a project of this size,” stated Dr Garavan, who observed that such initiatives by Shell were mere posturing to give the impression they were seeking the consent of the local people.
The existing nine-kilometre route was approved after former Minister for the Marine, Mr Frank Fahey, granted Shell Compulsory Acquisition Orders before the 2002 General Election under amended gas acts.
Meanwhile, The Mayo News has learned that hundreds of protestors are expected to converge on Bellanaboy for a ‘Day Of Support In Mayo’ on Friday, February 16 next. A source from Dublin Shell to Sea confirmed that projected numbers traveling from Dublin, Cork and Galway were similar to the last national gathering, on November 10, which led to scenes of violence and Garda use of batons.
While welcoming their supporters to north Mayo, Erris Shell to Sea has called on visitors to adhere to the peaceful ethos of the campaign and to prioritise the health and safety of all participants on the day.
Chief Inspector Tony McNamara confirmed that there was an ongoing Garda presence on duty for the daily protest but that this would be increased commensurate with the level of the protest.
“We are trying to figure out how many people will turn up, as we will have to implement a traffic plan. We welcome any call for the day to be a peaceful one and would also welcome an indication from the organisers about numbers,” said Chief Inspector McNamara.