Northern Irish planning permission for interconnector rescinded

Planning permission for the northern section of the North South Interconnector has been rescinded by Belfast High Court in a ruling on the matter.

The project was initially signed off on by senior civil servants last year but was challenged in court due to the fact that it had not been given the green light by a minister of the Northern Irish Executive, which has been out of action for the past two years.

The challenge was brought forth by a group of landowners along the project’s proposed route, under the name Safe Electricity A&T.

The decision affects the approximate 40km of the interconnector’s total 140km route, which resides in Northern Ireland, according to Eirgrid, which is spearheading the project.

The ruling has no impact on the Republic of Ireland’s 100km route, for which planning consent has already been granted, a representative for Eirgrid confirmed.

“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,” the representative added.

SONI reaction

Northern Irish arm of the Eirgrid group System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI) responded to the ruling, confirming that it would be seeking the re-determination of existing planning application for the project following the granting of powers to the permanent secretary of the Department for Infrastructure (DFI) in the absence of a minister.

A spokesperson for SONI said: “We are committed to delivering the North South Interconnector project and will be seeking a re-determination on the planning applications by the Department for Infrastructure.”

The representative highlighted that planning applications met all policy requirements and were approved in January 2018 by the DFI Permanent Secretary, after a thorough planning process, which included a Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) Public Inquiry.

Robin, McCormick, general manager of SONI said: “We acknowledge the the Department for Infrastruture’s (DFI’s) decision to concede to the legal challenge.

“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.

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 re-determined by DFI without delay.

“We will continue to work with local communities, landowners and all of our stakeholders, to ensure that the North South Interconnector is delivered as soon as possible.”