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Northern Ireland electricity scheme falls down to legal challenge

Words: Huw Morris
Electricity Pylons / iStock: 147073927

Planning permission for the Northern Ireland section of the North-South Interconnector project, seen as the most important infrastructure project on the island of Ireland, has been effectively quashed.

Safe Electricity A&T (SEAT), a group of Northern Ireland landowners, had sought a judicial review of the Department for Infrastructure’s approval of the  £200 million cross-border electricity line in January 2018.

It claimed a senior civil servant had wrongly agreed to the project in the absence of a minister or functioning executive at Stormont.

The Department for Infrastructure conceded the challenge in the High Court, asking for the permission to be quashed to allow the planning application to be redetermined.

“This decision applies to the section of the project falling within Northern Ireland, and has no bearing on the status of the planning consent achieved in Ireland,” said electricity grid operator EirGrid, which is developing the scheme in the republic.

“That consent remains valid and we are expecting a final decision from the Irish Supreme Court in the coming weeks which if positive, will allow the project to proceed to construction.”

System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI), which is responsible for planning and operating the grid, said it will seek to have its applications redetermined.

“SONI’s planning applications met all policy requirements and were approved after a thorough planning and consultation process, which included an independent Planning Appeals Commission public inquiry,” said the company’s general manager Robin, McCormick.

“With the introduction of new legislation, by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in November 2018, which empowers permanent secretaries to take key decisions, we are hopeful that the planning applications can be redetermined by DfI without delay.”

Image credit | iStock