The Shell oil company has taken the first step to secure planning permission from An Bord Pleanála for a controversial gas pipeline through north Mayo.

Shell has sought what are termed ‘pre-application discussions’ under the new Strategic Infrastructure Act to clarify procedures for lodging an application.

The Act came into force at the end of January and Shell lodged its application for talks just days later on 8 February.

Up to this point, permission to construct a gas pipeline had been subject to the granting of an order from the Minister for Natural Resources, Noel Dempsey.

However it is understood the impact of the new act is that any pipeline from the shoreline to any terminal requires only the permission of An Bord Pleanála.

The aim of the Strategic Infrastructure Act is to speed up the delivery of such projects.

The discussions also follow a preliminary decision of the Environmental Protection Agency to grant a licence for a gas terminal at Bellanaboy.