The High Court has continued an injunction preventing a landowner from digging up or interfering with high voltage cables from a wind farm.
Denis Cremins, who lives in Knocknagoshel, Co Kerry, and owns land at Keal in Athea, Co Limerick, where electricity cables were buried in 2009 on the roadside verge next to his land, had threatened to dig up the cables with a mechanical digger. He says that is part of his land.
The wind farm owners Dromada Windfarm (ROI) Ltd, part of the SSE Group, got an interim injunction earlier this month after the court heard Mr Cremins' daughter had contacted the wind farm operators saying she was worried about what her father was doing. Dromada claims Mr Cremins has demanded payments of €4.5 million and €7 million to allow the cables remain in place.
The case returned before Mr Justice Senan Allen on Tuesday when Mr Cremins, representing himself, said he and his family were happy that the injunction should continue pending trial or pre-trial resolution between the parties.
He asked, however, that Dromada be required to put security fencing or provide a permanent security presence at the land to ensure no member of the public is put in danger from the cables. He also says Dromada should apply for planning pemission for the cables.
No danger from cables
The court heard engineers for both Mr Cremins and Dromada say there is no danger from the cables which are buried underground as long as no one uses a digger to try to interfere with them.
The court heard there has been a history between Mr Cremins and Dromada beginning some years ago when the company sought to lease some of his land to put three wind turbines on it and run cables across his property.
There had been considerable recent correspondence and engagement between them since 2019 after Mr Cremin threatened to dig up the cables.
Late last year, Dromada claimed, Mr Cremin exposed some of the cable ducting and safety marker tapes on the grass verge.
He had set a deadline of May 5th last before he would dig up the cables and Dromada then sought the injunction.
Rossa Fanning SC, for Dromada, said his client has offered Mr Cremins a binding arbitration procedure, for which the company will pay his reasonable legal costs, in order to resolve the dispute. His suggestion that there should be mediation was not acceptable if he meant he would "get many millions of euro" but arbitration was acceptable.
Mr Cremins told the court he had no problem with the injunction continuing, but the cables were laid on his land without planning permission. It was unfortunate he had to take the risk he took, but he was happy and so was his family that after 15 years "I might be getting somewhere", but he now wanted the matter resolved.
Dromada had a few weeks ago suggested mediation, and now they were proposing arbitration. He wanted the fencing put up and maybe the matter could be put back for some months for it to go to mediation.
Mr Justice Allen told him that according to his and Dromada's experts it was safe for the public as long as no member of the public uses a digger to dig it up.
He said the cables have been there since 2009 and if they are to be dug up Mr Cremins needed a court order for that unless it can be sorted out between the parties beforehand.
It was not the judge's role at the moment to decide whether it was on his land or not but it has "all the appearances of being on his land”.
A layman might think it is a simple matter but the law is a bit more complicated than that, he said.
Mr Cremins had agreed there could be a meeting on site between his and Dromada's engineers. The judge was not persuaded there should be fencing erected but he would leave that to the discussion between the engineers.
He continued the injunction and gave both sides liberty to apply to the court if necessary pending trial or resolution of the action.