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Go-ahead for key power line project in Northern Ireland

Words: Roger Milne
Powerlines / iStock_000024574877

Officials at Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure have cleared the way for a major all-Ireland infrastructure project – the North-South Interconnector – to start climbing off the drawing board with the approval of the Northern half.

The scheme is designed to link the electricity grids of the Irish Republic and the Province with a 138-kilometre-long 400-kilovolt overhead line between Meath and Tyrone.

Approval was in line with the recommendations and report of the NI Planning Appeals Commission (PAC), which reviewed the planning applications and held a public inquiry into the project last year.

An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission for the southern section of the £200 million project in December 2016. That decision has been upheld by the courts despite a number of legal challenges.

The PAC report included full consideration of the planning issues and recommended that the scheme should go-ahead, in the process endorsing its significant strategic importance.

The department agreed with PAC that there was an “urgent and compelling need for the development”.

In a statement the department insisted that it was in the public interest “to take this decision without further delay, given the strategic importance of the project for the region”.

Normally the determination of this sort of key project would have been down to ministers. However, there are none at present following the collapse of the power-sharing administration 12 months ago.

The North-South Interconnector will run through Tyrone, Armagh, Cavan, Monaghan and into Meath. The scheme was proposed by electricity system operator System Operator Northern Ireland (SONI) and its owner EirGrid in the Republic.

Robin McCormick, general manager of SONI, said: “The North South Interconnector is undoubtedly the most important infrastructure scheme on the island today and will deliver very real benefits to domestic and commercial consumers.”

Turley’s director in Belfast, Michael Gordon, agreed. “This is great news for business in Northern Ireland. This is a vital piece of infrastructure that will provide surety around electricity supply for Northern Ireland so the lights can stay on and will also ensure greater utilisation of renewable energy sources onto the grid. In addition, it will provide a boost to the regional economy.”

Read more:

Controversial power interconnector hearing begins in Ireland

Critical power line project public inquiry gets under way in Armagh

NI appeals body completes its assessment of key power line project

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