This was the second stage of the reopened public inquiry held by the Planning Appeals Commission for Northern Ireland into the Northern Ireland element of the North-South Interconnector, a 400kv strategic link between the electricity grids of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Permission for the Republic of Ireland element of the Interconnector was granted by the An Bord Pleanala in December 2016. The Interconnector would involve 85 miles of overhead lines and pylons and is the largest proposed infrastructure project in Northern Ireland in recent times.
The planning application for the Northern Ireland element of the Interconnector will be determined by the Northern Ireland Minister for Infrastructure, having regard to the recommendation of the Planning Appeals Commission which has been appointed to hold the public inquiry. The inquiry originally opened in 2012 but was subsequently adjourned after the need for amendments to the proposal was identified. The first stage of the reopened inquiry was held in June 2016 to consider objectors’ arguments that the application was contrary to EU environmental law, including in relation to transboundary consultation with the Republic of Ireland and its residents concerning cross-border effects. The second stage is to consider the merits of the proposal.
Scott Lyness with William Orbinson QC of the Bar Library appeared at the inquiry for SONI, the electricity system operator for Northern Ireland and part of the EirGrid group, which is the promoter of the North-South Interconnector (instructed by Carson McDowell LLP).
John Litton QC appeared for the Department for Infrastructure and will be advising the Department upon the Minister’s ultimate decision (instructed by the Departmental Solicitor’s Office.