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Critical power line project public inquiry gets under way in Armagh

Words: Roger Milne
Overhead powerlines / Shutterstock

The reconvened public inquiry into proposals for the Northern Ireland section of the North-South Interconnector scheme has begun in Armagh.

The scheme is designed to link the power transmission networks on both sides of the Irish border

EirGrid has already been granted consent for the longer and larger Irish Republic leg of the project, although Irish MPs want further consideration of issues like undergrounding while landowners have begun legal proceedings challenging the approval granted by the country’s independent planning agency An Bord Pleanála.

Responsibility for the Northern Ireland section of the project rests with SONI Ltd, the electricity system operator for Northern Ireland, which has been part of the EirGrid Group since 2009.

Under scrutiny at the hearing will be proposals for a new 275/400kV substation near Moy, County Tyrone and nearly 34 kilometres of 400kV overhead transmission line from the new substation to a crossing point on the Armagh-Monaghan border.

The scheme, officially known as the Tyrone/Cavan interconnector, has had a chequered past. A public inquiry into the scheme opened five years ago but was adjourned when it came to light that the planning application and environmental statement had not been properly advertised in the press.

Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure will ultimately decide the fate of the scheme following a recommendation from the Planning Appeals Commission, which is running the hearing. SONI is hoping a decision will be made in the third quarter of this year.

Robin McCormick, general manager of SONI, said: “The North-South Interconnector is without doubt the single most important infrastructure project on the island today.”

Image credit | Shutterstock