All to play for in High Court over planning permission for Shannon LNG project

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

Shannon LNG: High Court proceedings open in Dublin next month

Shannon LNG: High Court proceedings open in Dublin next month

THE latest twist in the long-running proposal to build a liquefied natural gas plant at Tarbert Ballylongford has sparked yet another war of words between environmentalists and those who want the promised jobs.

But it will be the decision by An  Bord Pleanála  to extend the planning permission for the proposed Shannon LNG plant that will be at the heart of the matter  when High Court proceedings open in Dublin next month.

The legal proceedings were initiated by a group called Friends of the Irish Environment who applied to the High Court on September 6 for leave to seek a judicial review of the An Bord Pleanála decision made in July.

The application has now been  adjourned until October 4 for hearing but meanwhile, an injunction was granted to the environmental group.

Ironically, this latest development comes just weeks after new life was injected into the  project when the US-based equity firm New Fortress Energy announced they were coming on board as new backers for the €500m plant at the Tarbert Ballylongford landbank.

Neither Shannon LNG nor New Fortress Energy have responded to a request for comment this week and Friends of the Irish Environment are equally maintaining silence.

“As the matter has yet to be heard, Friends of the Irish Environment is not in a position to make any further comment at this stage,” they stated on their website.

Earlier this year, however, some of the difficulties about the planning permission were spelled out by another environmental group, Not Here, Not Anywhere and reported in the Limerick Leader. The original planning permission for the gas plant was due to run out in March 2018 and Shannon LNG  applied to An Bord Pleanála for a five-year extension under the Strategic Infrastructure Act 2006.

On January 11, An Bord Pleanála ruled that any extension of planning permission constituted  “a material alteration to the terms of the development" and ordered a consultation as to whether that change would have “significant effects on the environment”. On February 6, however, the Bord said it had “subsequently revised” its position and was now inviting submissions before it decided whether the extension of planning was a material change or not.

Environmental groups from Ireland, Belgium, Germany and the USA submitted a  joint objection against the extension of planning on the grounds that it would contribute significantly to climate change, destroy local biodiversity, involve more fossil fuel lock-in and damage the up-and-coming Irish renewables industry.

They also pointed out that since the original planning permission was granted, the estuary had been designated as an EU Special Protected Area.

In July, An Bord Pleanála granted the five-year-extension and it is this which is now being challenged in the High Court. 

Meanwhile, public representatives and others have been vocal in condemning what they regard as a further delay in a much-needed project which would deliver investment and jobs to the area; 400 during construction and up to 100 permanent jobs.